For The News Courier
Reeltown — Reeltown High School scrapped its way to a Region championship and home field advantage in the AHSAA state playoffs this season but met their match last night against No. 1 Tanner High School, falling 35-14 at home in Nix-Webster-O’Neal Stadium.
Tanner tailback Hayden Stephens had four touchdowns in the Rattler victory.
The loss ends the No. 3 Rebels season at 12-2 in the state semifinals.
Both teams got a feel for eachother early on in the contest and Ariko Stewart made the first big play for Reeltown when he intercepted a Tanner pass on the one-yard line to halt their opening drive.
Ariko Stewart then contributed offensively with a long run to Reeltowns one 20-yard line, but the drive would stall three plays later.
With the ball on the Reeltown 31 yard line, the Rattlers ran for a first down in three plays then struck with their first touchdown of the game when Hayden Stephens dashed for 19 yards and a 7-0 lead.
Fred Rich then intercepted a pass from Reeltown quarterback Cody Spivey to end the ensuing Rebel drive at the beginning of the second quarter.
Stephens then struck again two plays later with a 51 yard touchdown run for a 14-0 Tanner lead with 10:20 left in the half.
In what was Reeltown’s lone points of the first half, Spivey connected with Michael Hall-Long on a 24 yard pass on the ensuing drive and senior runningback Tywone Stewart took the next play 31 yards to the house to cut the lead to 14-7.
Everytime Tanner needed to churn yards out on the ground, they went back to Stephens and the tailback responded on the next drive with a first down run, followed by two first down runs by Rich and a 21 yard touchdown pass from Jonathan Fletcher to Greg Maclin to take the Rattler advantage to 21-7 with just under six minutes remaining in the half.
Reeltown’s next drive would stall and Tanner would wind up taking a shot at the endzone that fell incomplete and the teams went to the half 21-7.
In a matchup between two top-3 teams, the third quarter saw the squads going at it back and forth.
Reeltown was driving with Tywone Stewart out of the wildcat formation, but the Rattler defense made another big play when Maclin picked off Spivey and put an end to a drive that was in Rattler territory.
But the Reeltown defense held strong and forced a punt before the Rebel offense stalled mainly off of a controversial intentional grounding call.
The ensuing drive for Tanner was the back-breaker. Tanner went 71 yards on 11 plays and scored off of an 8 yard touchdown pass from Fletcher to Stephens that took the score to 28-7.
Tywone Stewart answered back three plays later with a 46-yard touchdown run with 7:45 remaining to take the score to 28-14.
Stephens answered back for the Rattlers with another touchdown run from 10 yards out with under two minutes remaining to essentially ice the game at 35-14.
Tywone Stewart led the Rebels on the ground with two touchdowns, but was held to a minimum of yards by the stout Tanner defense.
Tanner will play Washington County in the Class 2A State Championship at 3 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7 in Jordan-Hare Stadium.