SPRINGFIELD — Willie Ferrell loves a good conversation, so much so that he engages in random dialogue with his opponents.
The senior Effingham County defensive back/linebacker starts things with a couple general questions and then quickly lets the player he is lined up against know what his next move is going to be.
“I just talk during the game,” Ferrel said “I don’t know what I am talking about. Sometimes I will ask them how their day is going and then I will tell them I am going to lock them down.”
Ferrel has been one of the most reliable performers on the Rebels’ defense this season. Heading into last week’s game against Beaufort, he had 22 tackles, one interception, two tackles for an loss and recovered an onside kick.
Ferrell said his football IQ has grown quite a bit since his days as a wide-eyed freshman.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot intellectually,” he said. “I feel like I know the game more. In ninth grade, I just wanted to hit someone.
“Now I can actually read plays a little bit better.”
Ferrel enjoys his role as a defensive leader.
“Myself, Brandon Hicklen and Randy Scott — we are not really vocal but we are playmakers and we get everybody hyped up with us,” Ferrel said.
The Rebels have strugged defensively at times. Last season through five games, they surrendered just 14.6 points per game. This season through five games, the Rebels have allowed 28.6.
“I just think about what I can do to better myself,” Ferrel said. “During the Statesboro game (a 35-0 loss), I sat on the sideline and I kept thinking, ‘Wow! I understand it’s not region play but every game is another chance to get better.’”
Hurricane Dorian cost the Rebels their bye week but Ferrel doesn’t care. He prefers the weekly gauntlet, saying every game serves its purpose.
“I don’t mind having a bye week but it is what it is,” Ferrel. “The bye week is a chance for me to get better and watch other teams play. Other than that, I like the momentum.
“I like keeping my mind focused on the game every week. I like that more than having a bye week.”
The Rebels will open Region 2-AAAAAA play Friday at Bradwell Institute, a team that has been shut out twice this season. Ferrell, however, isn’t taking that game for granted or those against 2-AAAAAA foes Brunswick, Glynn Academy and Richmond Hill.
“Just looking at how they’ve been playing, I feel like they are going to be good games,” Ferrel said “Brunswick is pretty nice this year. I’m not sure aboutBradwell but Richmond Hill is playing good, too. As far as our mindset, I am taking it one game at a time.
“When we get there, we’ll be laser focused on which team comes next.”