Despite taking a big step up in competition level by moving from Class 2A to Class 3A Region 4, Reeltown’s football team wasn’t looking to take it easy by any means.
In addition to a tough seven-game region schedule, the Rebels’ three non-region opponents are all in larger classifications and all of them are fairly tough opponents. Reeltown will open it up with Tallassee, which has missed the playoffs for the last two seasons but is a huge rival for the Rebels, and the other non-region opponents are Holtville and St. James, both of which made the playoffs last year. Tallassee and Holtville are both in 5A while St. James is a 4A squad.
“It’s tough scheduling,” Reeltown coach Matt Johnson said. “It’s not like we went out and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to go out and get the toughest schedule in the state of Alabama.’ I feel like our schedule is as tough as anybody’s in 3A football. That was the idea but we try to get local teams and try to match our home and away situation. After you go through all that, it’s tough.”
Bringing back the Tallassee versus Reeltown rivalry has been in the works for quite some time. Although the Tigers have had two down years, they’ve traditionally been a powerhouse and made the playoffs for 10 straight seasons prior to 2018.
With the two communities being just a few miles from each other, this game usually brings in a huge crowd and the players have extra motivation to get a victory because they know their opponents so well.
“We started doing OTAs together during the summer and it’s gone great,” Johnson said. “We’ve really helped each other get better and it’s been a lot of fun and real intense. So we’ve had small conversations for the past four years about (playing again), and we just felt like it was the right time.”
Reeltown and Tallassee have played 16 times, splitting those contests evenly. The last time they met was 2003 when the Rebels won, 16-13.
Another rival that’s always on the docket for the Rebels is Dadeville. Except this time, instead of the teams playing their cross-county rivalry game early in the season on a Thursday night, they’ll have to wait till late in the year to play in a region game. For the first time ever, the Tigers and Rebels are in a region together and they’ll play at Reeltown in Week 8.
“It’s going to be late in the year, but that’s awesome,” Johnson said. “If both of us handle business, that’ll be awesome if that game can have some massive ramifications.”
Other region opponents include Childersburg, Montgomery Catholic, Goshen, Trinity, Beulah and Pike County. Of those six opponents, only Childersburg and Beulah did not advance to the postseason last year. There certainly shouldn’t be any pushovers or obvious blowouts, which is something last year’s region did not provide for the Rebels.
“There’s no weeks off,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a grind, but I look forward to it.”
Another thing that was important for Johnson in the scheduling was getting a bye week in the middle of the season. For the last two years, the Rebels have had Week 10 off, which has been nice to have some extra preparation for the playoffs, but Johnson was adamant about wanting a midseason bye week.
“That was one thing I wanted to protect,” Johnson said. “With Tallassee being at Week 0, that left us with 1, 5 and 10 open. I didn’t mind how it was (in Week 10) because it was great for the playoffs, but with the schedule we have, playing those 10 games straight, it would’ve been really tough. So I wanted to protect Week 5 and we were able to do that.”
Reeltown opens the season at Tallassee on Aug. 20.