Expectations weren’t met for either Dadeville or Reeltown’s football seasons a year ago, and both for very different reasons.
The Tigers finished with just three wins in 2018 and four of their seven losses came by a touchdown or less. That certainly wasn’t what seasoned coach Richard White was looking for as he hasn’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 2004 and 2005.
As for Reeltown, it definitely didn’t have any problems winning during the regular season. It finished 8-2 and went undefeated in Class 2A Region 4 but was then upset by a No. 4 seed, Daleville, in the opening round of the playoffs.
This year, both teams are expecting more and their coaches made that known at the 2019 Fox Sports High School Football Media Days on Wednesday at Southern Union State Community College.
“I think (our guys) saw what happened last year as juniors,” White said. “They’ve really led this year in summer workouts, and we’ve done some 7-on-7s and OTAs this year and we’ve been able to hang in there as best as we can.”
The biggest question mark for Dadeville will be how it replaces two-year starter Slade McCullers at quarterback, and although a sophomore will be taking over the job, White said it won’t be so much how the newcomer does but how the people around him do.
“We’re breaking in a new quarterback, a sophomore, and it’s going to take some time,” White said. “We’re going to have to rely on good offensive line play to protect him and block for him, and hopefully our defense can keep us in the ballgame. Overall, they’ve discussed their will to win. Where a lot of teams just go through the motions, this bunch right here, they want to win.”
Although White is an old-school football coach at heart and knows the game is ultimately won in the trenches, he’s also going to rely on a set of returning receivers to help his new quarterback along. Jamarion Wilkerson is a rising senior who attended Media Day and will be one of those top receivers to watch out for, along with rising senior Cooper Childers.
“That’s going to be the key to it,” White said. “We have a returning receiving corps with a bunch of seniors and hopefully they can get open and we can get the ball to them. They’re going to have to make the quarterback’s job a lot easier. But that all goes back to our offensive line; they’ve gotta give the quarterback time to throw the ball and get a little confidence back there so he’s not running for his life.”
As for Reeltown, it’s more in need of replacing some key pieces on the defensive side of the ball. While the Rebels graduated top running back Keke Hughley, they have more than enough to fill his shoes with backs Cameron Faison and Tre Tre Hughley as well as the highly-recruited Eric Shaw. But those losses to graduation will be felt more.
However, Reeltown coach Matt Johnson was extremely complimentary of his team’s offseason.
“(Despite injuries last year), I felt like our guys still continued to fight and we came up a little bit short in the first round of the playoffs to an underrated Daleville team,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a bad taste in our mouth since then. But this has been the best offseason that we’ve had since I’ve been at Reeltown. The guys have really been motivated and the weight room has been totally different.”
More than anything, Johnson emphasized how important the weight room is. Not only does it theoretically help ward off injuries which have been a point of contention for the Rebels in the past few seasons, but it also builds more than just football skill — something Johnson always stresses.
“That’s a huge part of our program,” Johnson said. “Our process we feel like starts in the weight room at Reeltown. That’s something we’ve changed over the years and that’s become an identity of who we are. We try to play fast, physical football and we feel like we can accomplish that in one room. It’s not about just getting stronger; it’s where we really push accountability, discipline and understanding exactly how we do things and the speed in which we do it.”