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It’s no secret Reeltown football coach Matt Johnson wants his team to be involved with organized team activities (OTAs) during the summer and Thursday gave him his first chance to see his players in one this year. The Rebels traveled to Montgomery to participate in OTAs against Montgomery Academy, Holtville and New Brockton and Johnson was pleased with what he saw from his team. 

“This is our first one so I wanted to see how we would compete,” Johnson said. “We came out a little slow but for the most part, I was very pleased with that. Obviously, we have a whole lot to work on but I feel like our guys carried themselves very well (Thursday).”

The day started with the camp split into two sections with the interior lineman on one side of the field while the other side was essentially for 7-on-7 drills. Rules were set and each team would go up against the other three teams on both sides of the ball.

Once the separate drills finished the teams moved to 11-on-11 play, where coaching staffs had a scripted set of plays to run during the five-minute session. Johnson said the best part about the day was getting each unit to see different looks from all of the other teams. 

“There were four teams here so we saw three different types of defenses and three different types of offenses,” Johnsons said. “We don’t scheme these things so other than the competitiveness of it, I wanted to see how we would adjust our alignment and assignments we’d have on both sides of the football.”

All four teams at Thursday’s camp made the postseason in 2018 but none of them made it to the second round. The teams seemed to be evenly matched for most of the day but there were some standouts, including a handful for Reeltown.

“Offensively, I felt like both quarterbacks did a lot of good things,” Johnson said. “Iverson Hooks looked really good in the run game and from the coaching standpoint, his strength of running is because Cameron Faison is there faking and the defense moves with him.”

Hooks split the reps at quarterback with Logan Hunt, who has a little bit more experience under his belt. Johnson said Hunt threw the ball well but both players have unique skill sets that could help the team.

While Hunt may air the ball out more, Hooks fits the offensive scheme which relies heavily on the team’s speed. The Rebels showed off their speed early and often on both sides of the ball Thursday.

“Our biggest strength on both sides of the ball is going to be our speed,” Johnson said. “We saw that early on in our pass game. We had a busted coverage but our linebackers made him float the throw and our corner (Rasheed Wilson) had time to recover and make a great play on the ball.”

Shortly after the play by Wilson, Faison got a chance to show off his speed on offense and cut through the defense after catching a short pass during the 7-on-7 drills.

“We had a really fast team last year but I think overall, we may be a little faster,” Johnson said. “We lost a lot of fast guys but that’s what really stood out (Thursday). Once we picked it up, our speed was very noticeable to everyone.”

Reeltown also got plenty of work on the defensive side of the ball and Johnson said the team’s strengths showed out again at the OTAs. Whether it was linemen drills, work in the passing game or 11-on-11 plays, the Rebels’ defense made a mark against each opponent.

“Defensively, our three guys up front looked really good,” Johnson said. “And our secondary is as strong as it has been in a long time. We want to get better at linebacker but our defense looked good (Thursday).”

With six weeks until the season opener, there are still improvements Johnson wants to see from the Rebels. Reeltown will turn to working on more strength and conditioning during the All-Star Week next week but will get back on the field for a joint practice with Notasulga on July 23 and an OTAs session at home July 25.

“We’re nowhere close to where we want to be but it’s a great start,” Johnson said. “We’re not backing down from anybody. Our guys are starting to understand that it’s not just about beating the opponent. We want to dominate everybody. If we keep that mentality, I think by the time Aug. 22 comes around, we’ll be ready to play.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writers at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.