Devils' defense delivers championship performance

 

AUBURN — Reeltown scored its lone touchdown on a special teams play, and as Fyffe coach Paul Benefield noted afterward, the starting defense still hadn’t surrendered a touchdown all season.

“We kept putting pressure on them and it worked out for us,” Benefield said after Fyffe’s 56-7 win in the Class 2A state championship at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Friday.

The Red Devils’ defense performed up to championship-caliber when it needed to most, and the result was a second straight state title win and fourth in program history. 

Fyffe’s defensive effort held Reeltown to just 51 yards of total offense, the second fewest yards allowed in AHSAA Super 7 history dating back to 1996, according to the AHSAA. Fyffe finished 15-0, allowing 42 points all season, including nine shutouts.

Yes, this run was something special.

“(Our players) shouldn’t be over-confident, but they will be,” Benefield said smiling. “I’m gonna help them along the way, though. These are workers and very coachable kids.”

The Rebels lost all four fumbles, including one that led to a Fyffe touchdown. Zach Pyron tackled Reeltown quarterback Iverson Hooks in the backfield, forcing him to lose the ball. Ty Bell scooped up the loose ball and ran it in for a 7-yard TD to put the Red Devils on top 20-0 with 7:11 left in the first quarter.

“Turnovers were huge for us,” Benefield said.

Pyron finished as the game’s MVP, after posting a strong defensive performance with three tackles and a pass breakup. Ike Rowell had five tackles and defended a pass, Kyle Dukes added a sack for a 4-yard loss, and Hunter Gillilan and Justin Stiefel each defended passes.

Fyffe raced to a 28-0 lead with 40 seconds left in the first quarter, before Reeltown’s Eric Shaw returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards along the right side for the Rebels’ only scoring source.

“I think it was a combination of they are an exceptional football team and we made a few mistakes early,” Reeltown coach Matt Johnson said. “They were on fire, had the hot hand, and it got us behind the 8-ball, so we had to do some things that were out of character for us.”

Fyffe’s offense maintained possession for 30:14 to Reeltown’ 17:46, allowing defensive players plenty of time to rest and prepare for the next defensive series. The Red Devils also converted 9 of 13 third-down attempts and was 2 of 2 on fourth-down tries, while holding the Rebels to 2 of 8 on third downs and 0 for 2 on fourth downs.

In Benefield’s 28-year coaching career, Fyffe’s newest state title was coaching victory No. 297. He is now 297-53 overall.

Benefield knew talking about the success at Fyffe would make him emotional in front of his players and media members afterward.

“I’ll get blubbery just talking about it,” he said. “We come to work every day and I try not to let the kids get complacent.”

As Fyffe celebrated retaining its state championship, the players were appreciative of the support they’ve received from the community.

“(Fyffe) is a special place to be, knowing everyone wants to come in every day and get better,” Pyron said.

Said Malichi Mize: “The fans are like nothing else. The community is always behind you.”

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