REEL Community "Building A Legacy"
October 1, 2018 | View PDF
You’ve probably driven by it on the way to enjoy a weekend at Lake Martin. And more than likely no attention was paid to the little ole country store under the caution light. You may have thought it was a bit pitiful to have no vibrant booming businesses. You just drove right on through, and that’s ok because you didn’t know. You may have inadvertently dismissed the magnitude of the support behind the doors of the small community. Nestled between the a thriving kiwi farm and the lush green pastures of Tallapoosa county sits a tiny school with the support of a big community. My husband and I have lived a lot of places. I have never experienced a sense of community that I feel in this place. I’ve never seen people rally behind the inner workings of a community. I’ve never seen people be “all in.” All in because they love this place. All in because they believe in this place. All in because they believe in the people leading and serving in this community. All in because they are simply invested. This is where they were raised and this is where they will raise their families.
One thing that is the center of this great community is a thriving, growing athletic program, particularly Reeltown Rebel Football! Friday nights at Nix-Webster- O’Neal Stadium looks like a night under the lights of the SEC. Inclement weather won’t hold this community back. In raincoats and ponchos they pack the stands in hopes of bringing another victory home. We call that “W” around our house! The crowd cheers loudly, they shake their cowbells and one man, well for as long as anyone can remember, he’s been playing his bugle and yelling CHARGE! There is a rich history here, a history that started about 60 years ago. Before the newest coach, Matt Johnson, graced the field as a head coach 3 seasons ago a long legacy had been left. Big shoes had to be filled.
Coach Duane Webster stepped into the position as head coach in 1956. He came from the rival school, but he brought with him a genuine sense of community. He brought with him the desire to win and win he did. Securing a state championship in 1987, he ended his career with a record of 217-94-9 following the 1987 victory. He was inducted into the AHSAA Hall of Fame in 1994. Following Coach Webster, Coach Jackie O’Neal who was a position coach for Coach Webster for 10 seasons, stepped into the role. Coach O, as he is known around our parts, led the Reeltown team to the playoffs all but 3 seasons in his 26 year career as head coach. He was able to secure two state championship titles during his tenure as head coach. In 2001 He led the Reeltown Rebels to the first of these two titles, beating Notasulga for the win. Again, in 2009 he was able to successfully lead the team to victory. Coach Jackie O’Neal holds an impressive record of, 241-110 over his 26 years as Head Coach at RHS. He was inducted into the AHSAA Hall of Fame in 2012. He retired after the 2015 season, leaving a whole community and an entire state wondering who would fill his shoes.
Matt Johnson entered the scene, though it was a very familiar place to him. Familiar because he was a player during the 2001 State Championship and an assistant coach on the 2009 winning team. This is home for him and this is the opportunity of a lifetime. This is the opportunity to serve the community that served him growing up and to be a part of something bigger. Coach Johnson started his coaching career in Reeltown under Coach O’Neal. He advanced his coaching career at Andalusia High School, where he coached for 5 seasons. A door opened at Upson - Lee High School in Thomaston, Georgia and Matt accepted a position as Assistant Head Coach there. With just one season under his belt at ULHS the opportunity arose for him to come home. He gladly accepted.
The first two seasons proved to be successful for the young head coach. He advanced to the first round of the playoffs during the 2016 season and the second round in 2017, each year building on the success of the year before. This year is no different for the Reeltown Rebels. With only half way into the season the Rebels hold a 5-0 record, and the momentum is high. The last time there was a 5-0 record was in 2014. Reeltown has scored 186 pts this year and defense has given up 35 pts. RHS is 3-0 in the region with three key region games left. They are Ranked #3 in the state in 2A football. When asked what his thoughts on the season are, Coach Johnson stated, “You’ve got to buy into the process of doing the things it takes to become better each and every day. It’s not solely about defeating the opponent, but more about self-evaluating, team evaluating and being the best at both, and especially better than you were yesterday. Our biggest opponent should always be who we were yesterday. That takes evaluating and then figuring out how to make it better. That’s the focus and it must continue to be in order for us to be successful.” With a promising season ahead of the team, a state championship is the focus and what is on everyone in the community’s mind. No pressure, right? Though a state championship is what they all seek, the ultimate goal is more about unity and buying into something greater than we all are. As Coach Johnson frequently says around the house and the locker room, “keep the main thing the main thing.” That main thing is Jesus Christ and pouring into the lives of the young men of our future. These young men are the future leaders, the future teachers, lawyers, business owners, husbands and preachers and hopefully if you invest your time correctly in them and they in their own future, then they are the future little league and high school ball coaches. As a wife and a mother, though I may a bit partial, I cannot wait for my own boys to be suiting up and playing on the Reeltown football field one day. These are ideals that were passed down from a mentor (Coach Webster) to a mentor (Coach O’Neal) to a mentee (Coach Johnson). These are the reasons they coach. These are the reasons they strive to win. This is where the legacy began and grew and continues to grow daily. These men are seed planters and they are tend to the crop daily.
Reeltown is the team to beat this year, as they are every year. Though, win or lose it won’t matter to those supporters. It won’t keep the crowd at bay. They are invested. They are a part of a real community. They are a part of something bigger. They are a part of a legacy building community that for 62 years has proven they can handle just about anything that is thrown their way. It’s a little slower pace around these parts, but it’s the perfect place to just simply enjoy life in.
No, Reeltown is not a real town. No we don’t have a zip code we can claim but what we have is far greater than anything I could’ve ever imagined for my family. We get to live in a place that rallies behind each other and supports them in their failures and rejoices with them in their successes. Do you want to sense what real community is like? This place is special, but hey don’t take my word for it. Just join us on any given Friday night under the lights. Start building a legacy here. Take a look behind the closed doors of the unassuming little community. Blue and white runs deep. Just take a peek and see. This is Reeltown and this is what a real town looks like.
A partial coach’s wife from the best community in the state.