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Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Reeltown's Cameron Faison (2) rushes the ball while being pursued by Zion Chapel's Brockston Bragg.

Pure domination.

That’s pretty much all one can say to describe Reeltown’s shutdown of Zion Chapel in the first round of the AHSAA Class 2A playoffs.

People can argue Zion Chapel wasn’t a worthy opponent. They can say Zion Chapel shouldn’t have been there. They can say it got lucky because Highland Home — the would-be champion out of Region 3 champion — had to forfeit. They can say Zion Chapel’s 505 record was misleading.

But at the end of the day, Zion Chapel was in the playoffs and Reeltown had to take care of business. And boy, did it ever.

From the word go, it was all Reeltown, all the time. The Rebels scored just 20 seconds in and never looked back in a 56-0 victory in Round 1.

“We’ve been spending two weeks on nothing but us,” Reeltown coach Matt Johnson said. “You could really tell that we’ve really done some things we did better in the first quarter that we hadn’t been doing so well.”

Johnson is the king of wanting a fast start, and his Rebels (10-1) gave that to him in spades Friday night.

Zion Chapel (5-6) elected to receive after winning the toss, putting Reeltown’s defense to the test immediately. The Rebels were ready. On Zion Chapel’s first play from scrimmage, it fumbled and Reeltown defensive lineman Nelson Whaley jumped all over it.

That set the tone immediately for what was to come.

“I saw when he handed it off, he fumbled the ball, so I just went back there and got it,” Whaley said. “Coach always talks about starting fast because we start out slow sometimes and he don’t like that. I just jumped on the ball and that started out the game.”

Cameron Faison made Zion Chapel pay on the very next play, running in a score from 11 yards out — his first of three on the night.

But Reeltown’s defense wasn’t done just yet. After letting Zion Chapel’s Brockston Bragg break off a 7-yard run — one of its longest of the night — on the first play of the next drive, Reeltown’s Iverson Hooks recovered a fumble on the second play.

Again, the Rebels immediately took advantage as Hooks found Eric Shaw for a 26-yard score.

Just 1:07 into the game, Reeltown led 14-0.

“That’s the thing: When you start out fast, you go out and you’re able to do that,” Johnson said. “This game is so much about momentum and confidence. If you feel them out and they hit you in the mouth, then you give them confidence. Going ahead and imposing what we do right to start with was huge.”

Reeltown scored in a myriad of ways. Faison added another 13-yard touchdown and busted a long 65-yarder; Tre Tre Hughley scored from 14 yards out; Jay Corbitt added a 33-yard score; and Logan Hunt contributed a 13-yard rushing touchdown after taking over the quarterbacking duties early in the second quarter.

And Scooter Brooks added a special teams touchdown when he scored from 26 yards out after scooping up a fumble on a Zion Chapel kickoff return.

The only thing Reeltown didn’t do was have a defensive score, but the two early fumbles led directly to touchdowns and a Rhasheed Wilson interception set up Hunt’s trip to the end zone.

Despite having shortened quarters in the second half, the Rebels managed to get everyone in on the action.

“That’s huge because they get to experience the atmosphere and they get to experience a playoff game,” Johnson said. “The feel is different. The butterflies and the adrenaline, everything is just different in a playoff game because you know what’s at stake. For them to get in a situation like that, I’m just real tickled with them.”

Things are going to get harder for Reeltown moving forward; in Round 2, the Rebels will face J.U. Blacksher, which defeated Abbeville, 38-30. And Johnson knows despite the score, Reeltown wasn’t perfect Friday night. But he’s going to leave the need for improvement for later.

“I was so close and I started to complain about some things, but then I said, ‘You know what, we’re going to enjoy this,’” Johnson said. “They sprinted off the field because we’re going to enjoy this. I don’t care if it’s 2-0 or whatever that score was, we’re going to enjoy this win.” 

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