Holtville Football vs Reeltown

Reeltown quarterback Gabe Benton (1) throws a pass during an AHSAA football game between the Reeltown Rebels and the Holtville Bulldogs at Holtville High School in Notasulga, Ala on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. Reeltown won the game 40-26. {[Jake Arthur/ Tallapoosa Publishers]

Reeltown has hit its stride at the optimal point in the race that is football season.

The Rebels capped off the regular season with four straight victories, including a 22-point win against playoff-bound Dadeville and a two-score victory against another playoff team in Holtville, who plays two classifications higher than Reeltown.

Now the Rebels hit the road for a matchup with second-seeded Opp in the first round of the AHSAA Class 3A football playoffs Friday.

“I think we’re motivated, we’ve been playing some good ball here the past few weeks,” Reeltown coach Matt Johnson said. “This time of year, it’s always exciting to be in the postseason. That’s where you want to be. Everybody’s 0-0. Records don’t matter, seedings don’t matter, anything can happen.”

Slowing down 8-2 Opp starts with the passing game.

Junior quarterback Gray Jennings plays point guard under center, spreading the ball out to a variety of weapons to the tune of 1,692 passing yards with 21 touchdowns against eight interceptions. He’s completed 55 percent of his passes this year.

Five different targets have gained at least 190 receiving yards for the Bobcats in 2021. Senior wide receiver Zacchaeus Lindsey leads the way with 552 and eight scores.

“Us being a smaller 3A and our numbers being smaller than most people that we play, I think one of the challenges with the fact that they throw the ball so much is that defensively you’re going to have a lot more plays,” Johnson said. “The game is going to be a lot longer, have more incompletions and stuff like that.”

They’re plenty talented in the ground game too.

Star running back Terry Davis has gathered 982 rushing yards this season. He’s done it at a ludicrous 7.9 yard-per-carry pace and scored 16 touchdowns.

It may be true that Opp has produced more yards through the air this season, but focus solely on the passing game at your own peril.

“They’ve got a good running back, and they’re really big up front,” Johnson said.

Reeltown’s responses will have to come without the services of star running back Dakarian “Juicy” Hughley, who suffered a season-ending injury prior to the Rebels’ game last week.

A number of weapons stepped up in his stead to hand an upset to Class 5A Holtville, namely a 200-yard performance from senior wide receiver Marcus Haynes. Reeltown ran wishbone to add some extra wrinkles to its running game as well. SeDarico “Scooter” Brooks, Omorion Ponds, Arthur Woods and Jeffrey Thomas could all get carries.

It’ll be a three-hour drive for Reeltown to reach Opp, but the road trip doesn’t intimidate Johnson.

“At this point everybody’s traveled an equal amount of times. We’ve had five road games already,” Johnson said. “This, obviously, is a lot further, so the routine will be a little different. But once we get down there, we’re gonna keep everything the same as possible. I’m a huge routine guy. So we’ll keep that the same.”

The Rebels and Bobcats kick off at 7 p.m. Friday in Opp.

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