Those from Northeast Alabama who are well versed in high school football know the tradition of excellence Fyffe has had in its 87-year history.

But what you may not know is that Fyffe's opponent this Friday in the Class 2A title game in Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn is steeped in the same tradition of being a football power in its own right.

Reeltown, which is 22 miles due west of Auburn in Tallapoosa County, is much like Fyffe in many categories, including state championships.

The Rebels (13-1) come into Friday's game seeking their fourth state championship in their 85-year history. Fyffe also is seeking its fourth state title in its 87-year history.

Reeltown's last state championship came a decade ago when it defeated Clay County, 16-8.

"What goes around comes around," Rebels coach Matt Johnson said of his upcoming opponent. "We are very similar when you compare football programs, so it's interesting that we'll play a team like Fyffe that plays a similar style of football that I and my team grew up around."

COACHING HIS ALMA MATER

Johnson, like Fyffe coach Paul Benefield, returned to his alma mater as head coach after a few coaching stints in Andalusia and at Upson-Lee in Thomaston, Georgia.

He enters his fourth season as head coach of the Rebels. All four years under Johnson, Reeltown has earned a playoff berth.

"It's an honor to be back here and follow someone who has been a mentor to me and the reason why I went into coaching in the first place," Johnson said of his former coach Jackie O'Neal. "It's a dream come true to be here and now coach these guys in a state championship game."

Johnson has not had a losing season since taking over at Reeltown.

Benefield returned to his alma mater after coaching at Sylvania for five seasons. He has not had a losing record in 23 seasons at Fyffe.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Like Fyffe, the Rebels have a stable of running backs led by Cameron Faison. The senior running back has rushed for 1,467 yards and 22 touchdowns, while averaging 10.1 yards per carry.

"Cameron has really improved from last year to this year," Johnson said. "Early on he was a big-play kind of guy, but now he's a lot more consistent in getting you 3 to 4 yards per carry."

Trey Trey Hughley is second on the team with 612 yards and 11 touchdowns, while quarterback Iverson Hooks has rushed for 607 yards and nine touchdowns.

Reeltown's quarterback has attempted a few more passes than Fyffe this season. Hooks has completed 62% of his passes for 964 yards and seven touchdowns.

His leading receiver is South Carolina commit Eric Shaw. The 6-foot-5 receiver has hauled in 26 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns. Shaw also leads the team in tackles with 128 total stops with 16 tackles for loss, four sacks, three fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

"He's a great player," Johnson said of Shaw. "He's just as important for us on defense as he is on offense. He has made some phenomenal plays on offense and defense for us this year."

Hughley is second on the team in tackles with 94, and also has two sacks and two fumble recoveries.

ACESSING FYFFE

While this will be just the second time in the two programs' history that they will have met, Johnson is familiar with Fyffe.

"I saw them play for the state championship last year against Luverne and have played against teams which are using their offense. Everything you hear about Fyffe is true," Johnson said. "They are at a level where they expect to be [in state title game] year in and year out.

"They have been a machine in what they do offensively, and it's obvious they take as much pride in their defense as they do on offense."

Johnson said his team faced G.W. Long in the quarterfinals of the playoffs, and the Rebels from Skipperville ran a variation of Fyffe's offense. "When people are imitating what you are doing, then you must be doing something right," he said.

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