It’s showtime for Cavs, Grangers
LAGRANGE – Here we go.
For the third consecutive year, the Callaway Cavaliers and LaGrange Grangers will open the season against each other.
Callaway and LaGrange will play for the fifth time ever and for the third straight year when they get together at Callaway Stadium on Friday night at 8 p.m.
The game was originally scheduled for 7:30 p.m., but the game time has been moved back 30 minutes because of concerns over the heat.
After going more than a decade without playing each other, Callaway and LaGrange shared the field once again in 2014.
Callaway trailed 14-0 in the fourth quarter of that game, but it rallied to tie it before winning 20-14 in overtime.
Last year it was all LaGrange.
The Grangers surged to a big early lead, and they rolled to a 45-20 win to take a 3-1 edge in the all-time series.
“We’ll have that 100 percent mindset, because they’re playing against their cousins,” said Dialleo Burks, who is in his third season as LaGrange’s head coach. “It’s a great game.”
The one thing that’ll be different this year is the game time.
High-school games usually start at 7:30 p.m., but that’ll be different for Friday’s game, and that will require a minor adjustment for the two teams.
“You have your time with them after school a little longer,” Callaway defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard said. “Instead of leaving at 5:45, we’ll leave at 6:15 probably. It’s a little longer to think about it.”
Hubbard said the move makes sense considering how intense the sun can be at Callaway Stadium around 7:30 p.m., and not just for the players, but for the fans as well who sit on the side with the press box.
“I think it’s probably a good idea,” Hubbard said. “It’s a little cooler for both teams. And also for the fans. Nobody wants to sit out in the sun. Between 7:30 and 8, it’s a big difference.”
Callaway is coming off an impressive performance against Northside-Columbus in a preseason game on Friday in Hogansville.
Callaway led 27-7 when the starters were on the field in the first half, and it went on to claim a 33-7 victory.
The offense was sharp.
Junior DJ Atkins had two long touchdown runs, and Braylon Sanders put his big-play ability on display with a touchdown catch, and a touchdown run when he was lined up at quarterback.
On the touchdown run, Sanders got to the outside and left Northside’s defenders behind.
“You saw how explosive Braylon Sanders is,” Callaway offensive coordinator Matt Napier said. “You watch that film over and over again, and he’s running by people. It’s effortless speed.”
When the reserves were in the game in the second half, junior quarterback Kedrick Ramsey had a touchdown run for Callaway.
One question mark for Callaway is the status of senior Dylan Johnson, who started at quarterback against Northside and led the team on a handful of scoring drives and had a touchdown pass to Sanders.
Johnson hurt his hand in the second half, and whether he’ll be able to go this week hasn’t been determined.
Johnson, who is also Callaway’s punter, could play on defense, even if he’s unable to go at quarterback.
In a big game like this, Callaway would obviously love to have Johnson on the field in any capacity.
“You think about the big games he’s played in, all the way back to his sophomore year,” Napier said. “He’s got a lot of experience under center.”
Napier said the coaches take a long-term view of things when it comes to a player’s health, though.
As for the injured player, he almost always wants to be on the field.
“That’s the way they all are,” Napier said. “They all want to play.”
Callaway’s defense was up to the challenge as well last week.
Northside scored one touchdown in the first half on a 70-yard play, but outside of that it didn’t get a whole lot done offensively.
“I was real pleased with our effort,” Hubbard said. “I thought we played hard. I thought we ran to the football hard, and we looked hungry. Now we didn’t always do the right thing, but we made up for that with a lot of good effort.”
Of Northside’s six first-half possessions, there was one touchdown, a turnover, and four three-and-outs.
“They ended up with six possessions in the first half, and they moved it one time, and they scored on the long run,” Hubbard said. “For the most part, I thought we played pretty well.”
LaGrange, meanwhile, played the second of its two preseason games last week against Newnan.
It was a hard-fought and close game in the first half when the starters were in the game, with Newnan holding a 10-6 lead at the break.
In the second half, Newnan pulled away for a 37-6 victory.
The previous week, LaGrange fell to Heard County 20-13 after putting together a furious second-half rally to get close.
Against Newnan, LaGrange’s lone touchdown came when quarterback Amad Ogletree threw a long scoring pass to Bo Russell.
With Ogletree and Nathan Cronic sharing time at quarterback, LaGrange continued to move the ball well in the first half, but it was hurt by some turnovers, as well as untimely penalties.
“We had a couple of penalties, and just guys blowing assignments,” Burks said. “It was just one guy each time. So we’re trying to tighten that up.”
Burks said he used both of the preseason games as a way to see some players in different positions.
“We had some guys in some positions that we wanted to see them in, and that was uncomfortable for them,” Burks said. “We want to see where the holes are, what we have to fix. Last year really taught us something as a staff, that everyone has to be ready to go, at all times, with injuries. It kind of played itself out that we had to put some guys in.”
Burks said both of the preseason games were valuable learning experiences for the players, as well as the new members of the coaching staff.
“We really took those two weeks to iron out kinks,” Burks said. “We still have some new coaches. They need to understand how things flow. And we have some new guys. Hopefully now we’re ready to go.”
Burks said the key now is to make sure the players are ready to go by game time on Friday.
“You give it your all early, and then taper off toward the end,” Burks said. “We’re going to rest them up. We’ve got some guys that were banged up that didn’t play in the scrimmage, so we want to make sure they’re fresh.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports