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Eric Shaw snags a touchdown vs. Woodland last year.
Photos by Suzannah Solomon Wilson

High hopes for Rebels in '18

By Michael Butler

At Reeltown High School, there is a championship standard that Matt Johnson understands well. He was a player on Jackie O'Neal's 2001 championship team. He was an assistant coach on the '09 title team.

Johnson now enters his third season as head coach at his alma mater, in the wake of O'Neal's legacy.

"Coach O'Neal has been a huge mentor for me. I played for him. When I got out of college I got to coach for him," Johnson said. " He was in the same situation. Coach (Duane) Webster came in 1956 and turned the entire program around and had a lot of success. (They) put his name on the stadium. I'm following two guys that have their names on the stadium."

The Reeltown Coaching Tree: Johnson (left) with Webster (center) and O'Neal

Johnson has kept the playoff tradition alive with post-season trips in his first two years. Reeltown was 6-5 in 2016 and 7-5 last year which ended with a 35-25 second round loss to Sulligent.

"We felt like we got better as the year went on last year and had a chance to make a good run. We felt like we could've won that last game and who knows what could've happened. Taking that momentum from there and into the spring, these guys are hungry."

Reeltown has 45 players on the varsity roster, a solid number for a Class 2A program. Plus, there are lofty expecations with a No. 6 ranking in the preseason Alabama Sports Writers Association poll.

"The hype surrounding the school environment and the morale is always great. There's a coaching side to that also. We don't want to get to caught up in the hype and get away from the process that we've got in place to get better everyday. High expectations are good, but where they've got us (picked) is not where we want to finish either."

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