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File / The Outlook Reeltown's Rhasheed Wilson, far left, has been starting at defensive back since he was a freshman and he's back for more this season.

Ranked No. 9 in the Alabama Sports Writers Association preseason poll in Class 2A, Reeltown is expecting to pick up right where it left off but even better this football season.

Although the Rebels lost a lot on defense, they’ve had a few guys emerge as potential replacements and they return a ton of skill guys. Reeltown also needed improvement on both its offensive and defensive lines and although a few will have to play both ways, they’ll be ready for that challenge.

Every part of Reeltown’s team has at least one standout which should make for a strong season for the Rebels.

Rhasheed Wilson, cornerback/receiver

Entering his senior year, Wilson returns with a ton of experience especially on the defensive side of the ball. Wilson has been starting at cornerback since he was a freshman, and he’s continued to get better and better each season.

“He’s the most experienced defensive back we have,” Reeltown coach Matt Johnson said. “He’s a senior with great leadership and he’s a hard worker. He’s not a vocal leader, but he leads by example. He’s a real smart kid and just does all the right things.”

Wilson’s speed helps him to be able to play at any position in the secondary and he’ll also be utilized at receiver this season.

Johnny Brown, wide receiver/defensive back

Brown has emerged into a true offensive threat for the Rebels, and fans shouldn’t be surprised if they see him playing at multiple positions this season. Johnson even compared Brown to Cameron Faison, who has been lights out for the last several seasons for Reeltown.

“He’s kind of like an up and coming Cam,” Johnson said. “They’re both the same time of player.”

Johnson said Brown will play both running back and slot receiver as well as defensive back.

Nelson Whaley, offensive/defensive lineman

Whaley is returning for his third year as a starter on both of the offensive and defensive line. Now nearing 6-foot-0 and 240 pounds, Whaley is a monster for Reeltown at defensive end.

“He’s not vocal at all, but he’s just got that grit,” Johnson said. “He’s a hard-nosed guy. He’s a great kid until he walks through that gate then he’ll flip a switch. He’s just a great high school football player.”

Dee Griffin, offensive/defensive lineman

Griffin will play as defensive end opposite Whaley and as just a sophomore, Griffin should surprise some people this year. He’s also more of a vocal leader despite his age, and Johnson is looking forward to Griffin breaking out this season.

“He’s a heckuva ball player,” Johnson said. “He’s real great, he’s got great speed and a good motor. He’s real great. He’s young but he’s still growing, and he’s going to be a good-sized kid. He’s very coachable.”

Iverson Hooks, quarterback

Despite being just a sophomore, Hooks will take over the quarterback position after the graduation of Khoner Davis. Hooks and Logan Hunt were in a battle for the starting job throughout the summer, but Hunt proved more valuable on the defensive side of the ball and Hooks showed he was capable of being the starting QB.

“Their skillsets are different,” Johnson said. “Iverson has a strong ram, and hopefully it’ll get to Logan’s by the time he’s a senior too. Iverson has a lot of the same attributes that Logan does, but he’s just a lot better with his legs.”

Logan Hunt, inside linebacker

Probably what the Rebels needed most was linebackers. After the graduation of guys like Trey O’Neal and Jordan Whitlow, Reeltown desperately needed to fill those roles. And Hunt was exactly the person to do it.

“Logan is going to be our starting inside linebacker and that’s more solid than anything,” Johnson said. “He is as strong a quarterback on our defense as he is on our offense. You talk about a surprise; we lost all those linebackers and Logan stepped up and he’s done a remarkable job.”

Hunt will line up the defense and take on that responsibility of being the leader of the defense.

Cameron Faison, running back

Faison is a three-year starter for the Rebels, and he’s gotten faster and faster with every season. This year will be no different as he’ll use his speed to lead the Reeltown attack.

Faison neared 1,000 yards a season ago despite splitting the carries with Keke Hughley but with Tre Tre Hughley’s return being questionable, Faison could have to take on a lot more of the load this season.

Special teams is also Faison’s specialty. He scored multiple touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns a year ago and will continue to be a threat returning the ball this year.

Eric Shaw, wide receiver/defensive back

Possibly the most expectations surround Shaw, who is returning from an ACL injury that caused him to miss half the season. Despite that injury, Shaw has gotten nearly 30 Division I offers this offseason and will continue to be a force for the Rebels.

He’ll play both ways and on special teams this season.

“He’s bigger, faster, stronger now than he ever has been,” Johnson said. “He’s just continuing to improve. His routes are a lot crisper. I think (his leg) showed him down this summer, but he’s getting more and more comfortable with his leg.”

Reeltown begins the season at home Aug. 22 against Bullock County.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.