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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Reeltown's Rhasheed Wilson wraps up G.W. Long's Trevor Morris.

If there’s one thing Reeltown must do Friday night in the AHSAA Class 2A semifinals, it’s stop Leroy’s Kelston Fikes.

“I can easily say he’s the best running back we’ve seen this year that we’ve faced,” Reeltown coach Matt Johnson said.

Fikes is a 5-foot-11, 200-pound bulldozer but he also boasts a lot of speed. He’s rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season and accounts for 23 of Leroy’s 37 rushing touchdowns. 

“They run and feed off one guy and that’s (Fikes),” Johnson said. “He’s extremely good. He’s their dog. He’s very impressive on film. He reminds me of Cam (Faison); he runs the ball like Cam but he’s 200 pounds. He’s really quick, really fast and he’s big too.”

But Fikes isn’t the only weapon for Leroy (11-2). The Bears are fairly well-balanced as quarterback Kade Moseley has passed for 1,452 yards and 17 touchdowns, fullback Hunter Weaver has 477 rushing yards and they have six receivers with over 100 yards. Averaging 31.6 points per game, Leroy has an offense that’s going to force Reeltown (12-1) to be extremely sound and read its keys well.

“They run probably more formations than we’ve seen from anybody all year,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of like defending us in a lot of ways because they run so many formations. They do a real good job of moving guys around.”

But regardless of the rest of the arsenal, the main focus will be Fikes.

“He’s not a guy where you can come in and try to deliver a big hit on him because one step and you’re on the ground,” Johnson said. “We’ve gotta do a good job of defensively getting people to the point of attack and rallying to the ball and wrapping up. I say that, but we also gotta hit him. We got some guys on defense that can thump, so we gotta get those first one or two guys there to wrap him up then we gotta thump him.”

Defensively, the Bears have given up some points this year. Reeltown is allowing only 11.7 ppg and has posted three shutouts, whereas Leroy has allowed 16.7 ppg and has not shut a team out all season. However, Johnson said those numbers have been a bit misconstrued because the Bears have given up some late touchdowns.

Johnson expects Leroy to be extremely sound defensively and said the Bears aren’t going to play to Reeltown’s style but rather are going to force the Rebels to do what they want them to do. One thing Reeltown will be aware of is how much pressure Leroy likes to put on opposing quarterbacks.

“They’re going to make Iverson (Hooks) throw,” Johnson said. “They’re going to do some things defensively that will prevent him from extending plays with his legs. We’ve watched him against some dual-threat quarterbacks and they do a real good job of keeping those types of quarterbacks in the pocket. Iverson is more of a roll-out, play-action, dual-threat type guy, and I feel like they’re going to force him to stay in the pocket. We’re going to have to complete some balls and run some good routes.”

Hooks, however, has started to rush the ball more and more and is doing so on more designed plays. He rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown last week, and Johnson said he’ll continue to put Hooks into the rushing attack if need be. 

There are definitely weapons for Hooks to pass to when needed, but Reeltown’s bread and butter will continue to be its rushing attack. The 1-2 punch of Faison and Tre Tre Hughley continues to be extremely important to Reeltown’s success as the two have rushed for 1,413 and 590 yards, respectively. They’ve combined for 31 rushing touchdowns.

It’s hard to boil it down to what’s most important in a game like this. Both teams are very sound and are gunning for a spot in the state championship. But there are a few main focuses for Johnson and the Rebels.

“We’ve got to be able to score because they’re going to,” Johnson said. “They have good enough weapons on offense that they’re going to get some. (Fikes) is the best running back we’ve faced, so we’re going to have to tackle the best we’ve tackled all year and we’ve got to win special teams. In games like this, you have to do good in special teams.” 

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.