Last week, Reeltown gave up a touchdown it wished it had back.
Holding onto a two-touchdown lead against Class 2A Region 4 foe LaFayette, the Rebels brought the pressure on a fourth and 1 for the Bulldogs. Reeltown sent its defense flying, but LaFayette somehow broke free and was off to the races.
The Rebels felt they should’ve had that one, but now, they’re going to use what the Bulldogs did and try to do it themselves. Reeltown, which is now ranked No. 5 in Class 2A in the most recent Alabama Sports Writers Association poll, is headed to Maplesville for a top-five clash.
“I think it’s feast or famine,” Rebel coach Matt Johnson said. “With the blitzes and movements they run, they’re going to catch us and hit us in the mouth sometimes. But we have to do our jobs and every now and then we’re going to call the right play and we’re going to catch them. We gotta make some of them miss and it’s a matter of catching them in the wrong blitz at the wrong time.”
The Red Devils (4-0) are ranked No. 2 in Class 1A and their defense is the definition of stifling. They’ve allowed just 25 points all season, an average of just 6.25 points a game.
That being said, they haven’t faced the caliber offense Reeltown boasts yet. And one big key will be if the Rebels can play like they did last week up front.
“Our offensive line was very physical,” Johnson said. “That was what stood out most of all offensively, along with the 1-2 punch of Cam (Faison) and Tre Tre (Hughley). That won us the game; they complemented each other so well.”
Reeltown (5-0) is averaging 34 points per game and has scored at least 18 points in every game. It’s also got some serious depth. Although Scooter Brooks was limited last week after a fumble, he’s proven to be a big threat with some of his power running. South Carolina commit Eric Shaw is obviously a weapon on both sides of the ball, and Reeltown has had several other guys emerge — Johnny Brown, Jay Corbitt, Tyvon Waver and so on — as playmakers.
Passing hasn’t exactly been the strongest suit for the Rebels, who have always been known for their ground game. But with a strong defensive front like Maplesville, the Rebels will look to get quarterback Iverson Hooks going early.
“They’re extremely aggressive (on defense),” Johnson said. “They run an even front, but I would say 75% of the time they’re bringing six people. Those inside linebackers blitz an awful lot, and it’s some exotic blitzes with a lot of twists and stunts — just a lot of movement.”
But as tough of a job as Maplesville’s defense will have with Reeltown’s offense, the Red Devils boast a lot of offensive athleticism as well and they have proven to be more balanced than the Rebels. Maplesville running back Ryan Morrow and quarterback Jackson Abbott both return after successful outings against Reeltown a year ago.
“They run it a lot but their quarterback does a really good job too,” Johnson said. “They run some complex routes that we’ve got to really work on. It’ll be a good matchup. Their receivers and quarterback versus our secondary, I look forward to that matchup. We have to be able to hang with them up front and in the box though because they’re going to run the ball too and (Morrow) is a big ole, strong, fast back.”
Although this game doesn’t technically mean anything in the rankings or have any playoff implications, a victory would still be a huge stepping stone for either team as they are both looking to keep their undefeated records alive. And regardless of win or loss, this game will help both teams in their potential postseason runs.
“It’s a good measuring stick for us,” Johnson said. “Any classification, if you’re a good football team, you’re a good football team. They have a remarkable football team; there’s no doubt about that. The main thing for us is this is very much a quality opponent and we can both make each other better. It’s the whole iron sharpening iron thing.”
But Reeltown is looking to prove it’s sharper in the end.