Story by Griffin Pritchard | Publisher
Photos Courtesy of Reeltown Athletics
CENTRAL ALABAMA SCOREBOARD OFFICE – The only thing separating Reeltown from the 3A playoffs is 10 weeks of an SEC-like schedule filled with heavy-hitters from 4A and 5A. The Rebels, competing as a 3A for the second season, have a schedule that’s bookended with games against Tallassee and Holtville (both 5As) and then plays St. James (a 4A).
“This is easily the toughest schedule we’ve had,” Matt Johnson, Reeltown High football coach. “The region is set and assigned to us. It is what it is. But the rest of the schedule … how everything worked out … we had just played in the state championship games (against Fyffe as a 2A) and everybody knew we were moving to 3A. We were struggling to find some teams to play us. We had Tallassee. That’s a rivalry game that needs to be played each year. And then Holtville and St. James came on. That’s three really tough non-region games.”
Holtville finished second in their region last year and hosted a playoff game for the first time since the inception of Mtv, losing to UMS-Wright in the first round. St. James dropped a 27-21 decision to Montevallo in the opening frame of the playoffs.
Johnson: “Before we started the season (last year) someone told me Reeltown had never played a 5A, let alone beat one.”
The Rebels – in hostile territory – defeated Tallassee in overtime to kickstart the 2020 season. Tallassee makes the road trip this year bringing with them animosity and a crowd of thousands looking to pack Nix Webster O’Neal Stadium August 19.
“This is going to be a playoff atmosphere,” said Johnson. “It’s the first time we are hosting them in 18 years and we don’t have the restrictions that we had last season … it’s going to be wild.”
“It’s going to be wild” can also sum up the rest of the Reeltown Schedule.
- August 19 Host Tallassee
- August 27 at St. James
- September 3 at Childersburg
- September 10 at No. 3 (3A) Montgomery Catholic
Last season Montgomery Catholic defeated the Rebels 35-20 on the way to a state championship showdown with now-3A Fyffe.
Johnson: “There are some 5A teams that can’t compete with Catholic. The amount of talent that we are going to see on the field … it’s kind of a perfect storm for them right now. They are loaded.”
(Read about No. 3 Montgomery Catholic: https://centralalabamascoreboard.com/2021/07/06/round-table-set-for-montgomery-catholic-knights-to-compete-in-2021/)
- September 17 Host Goshen
- October 1 Host Trinity Presbyterian
- October 8 Host Beulah
- October 15 at Dadeville
- October 22 Host Pike County
- October 29 at Holtville
Johnson: “There are games on this schedule where if we’re not focused – in the weight room, in the film room, on the practice field and on Friday night – any given night things can get out of hand.”
Don’t get it twisted and think the Rebels are marching into this season shorthanded. Reeltown always has talented players and this year is no different.
Omar Ponds proved to be the overall Ironman of the bunch after a weekend competition. He posted a 4.53 40-time, benched 200-plus and squatted 476. He’s joined by Marcus Haynes, Juicy Hughley, Connor Spain, Arthur Woods, Gabe Bryant, Zy Collins, Dee Griffin, Jayvius Chapman and Buck Thompson as being the 10 strongest on the roster.
Bryant is set to become the first returning quarterback Johnson has coached since taking over the program from longtime ball coach Jackie O’Neal.
Johnson: “(Playing in) 2A is so different from playing in 3A. Last season we were flopping eight guys (playing on offense and defense) but we are in a region with Catholic, Trinity and Dadeville and they are going to be able to run 60 percent new legs out there each time we change possession. So we’ve got to find some depth, especially early on in the heat.”
But what makes the Reeltown – this iteration of it at least – program unique is the mindset that Johnson brings to the gridiron.
Johnson: “Our program … our process is built to where we don’t look at the results. And in today’s world it’s tough not to be result oriented. We want to focus on getting better each week and going 1-0 for that week. If you know how to face adversity and balance the negativity, you’re going to have a lot of good things happen to you. We want to go out and get better and improve our craft every day. We don’t have goals like winning the region championship and making the playoffs. Those expectations are understood when you step onto the field. Our expectations are that when you walk through that locker room door to have an extreme focus and understand the name written across your chest and the meaning behind it. You’ve got to be your very best self because there’s a guy behind you that wants your spot and a schedule full of teams that want to beat the brakes off you every week.”
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