Reeltown proved it had no quit with its 22-0 win over Holtville on Friday night.
After beating Tallassee in overtime the first game of the season and now shutting out the Bulldogs, the Class 3A Rebels are 2-0 against 5A teams to put a cap on a strange 2020 season.
According to Reeltown coach Matt Johnson, his team was fired up to play for each other and show they have what it takes to compete with the top programs.
“The emphasis this week was to get better,” Johnson said. “Anytime you have the opportunity to improve, that’s what you want to do and I’m proud of our kids for fighting and taking the challenge — the challenge being this is it for our season and our seniors. The character and integrity of our kids to come to work and put together a game like tonight against a very good, talented and well coached Holtville team, I’m very proud of them.”
Holtville (7-3, 4-2) came into this game preparing like any other ballgame but quickly found itself in a dog fight with a Reeltown (5-5, 3-4) team that had nothing to lose in Week 10.
From the first whistle to the last it was all Reeltown, forcing three straight turnover on downs to open the game on defense versus a dangerous Holtville offense.
Rebel senior Johnny Brown opened the scoring for the Rebels with a 10-yard touchdown. Scooter Brooks was the lead blocker for Brown on the touchdown. Brooks is usually the bell cow back for the Rebels but got the job done in other ways Friday night by lead blocking and faking the play action, like the one that set up a Gabe Bryant 40-yard pass to Brown which help set up the touchdown. Brown then got a receiving touchdown to match his rushing touchdown.
Johnson said Brooks and others opening up plays for seniors goes back to the brotherhood and culture he has tried to instill since Day 1 as Reeltown’s head coach.
“It’s a culture and character thing we have going,” Johnson said. “Being able to come out and play for each other — I’m very proud of them.”
From the jump it seemed like Holtville was making an emphasis to throw the ball deep to maybe prepare for the playoffs next week. However, Bulldog coach Jason Franklin said that was not that case at all.
“We were not prepared up front and that’s my fault,” Franklin said. “We had to throw the football because they made us.”
Despite the loss, Franklin said his team had a lot of fight in them but had too many mistakes against a good and disciplined Reeltown team.
“We played with grit all the way across,” Franklin said. “We had a lot of miscues. We couldn’t score from early on when we needed to so we could take advantage of the ballgame.”
Franklin said the Bulldogs need to improve drastically if they want to advance in next week’s playoff matchup against UMS-Wright.
“We have got to improve up front on both sides of the ball and get ready for a hard-nosed, physical UMS-Wright team,” Franklin said.
Although saddened to see them leave, Johnson is excited about the things his seniors are going to do outside of football as they go off and become men.
“This is a great class of seniors that are even better young men than players,” Johnson said. “I’m really proud of them. They’ve accomplished a lot and played in some big games in their career. There are cherishable memoires and to go out like that was fitting for them.”
As for what’s next, Johnson feels he knows what the Rebels need to do to take that next step in Class 3A and become contenders on a yearly basis like they did in Classes 1A and 2A.
“We are just going to continue to build,” Johnson said. “We understand it’s a different type football. We’ve got to hit the weight room and get depth because we can’t rely on 12 to 14 guys anymore, so just finding depth and keep getting after it.”