It’s region time for Cavaliers
HOGANSVILLE – The Callaway Cavaliers were on the way to what was, at that point in time, the best season in school history when they thumped Lamar County 44-0 in 2009.
The Cavaliers were in the midst of a 10-game winning streak, and they ended up reaching the state quarterfinals for the first time ever.
Callaway is hoping history repeats itself this week.
On Friday night in Barnesville, Callaway will begin its Region 5-AA schedule with a game against Lamar County, and it will be the first time those teams have played since 2009.
In the years since that game, both programs have thrived.
Under head coach Pete Wiggins, Callaway has been a consistent winner, and it reached the state semifinals in 2013.
Lamar County has also been winning big, and it went 14-1 in 2013 and lost to Lovett in the state-title game.
As for this year, both teams have high expectations and are looking to compete for a region championship.
One of those teams will get a leg-up in the chase for the region title by winning Friday’s game.
Wiggins, whose team won all five of its non-region games, is expecting a major challenge against a 3-2 Lamar County team.
“They’ve got a lot of tradition,” Wiggins said. “They’ve won a lot of ballgames. Lamar County’s got a solid football team. Defensively, they’re big up front, and they run to the ball. And they play great technique. Offensively, they’re explosive. Their quarterback makes a lot of plays. They’ve got good skill kids.”
Heading Lamar County’s offense is junior quarterback Malik Collier, who is a two-way threat.
Collier has thrown for 466 yards with five touchdowns in five games, and he has also run for 166 yards with a pair of scores.
Collier’s favorite target is senior Tae Holiday, who has 10 catches for an impressive 19-yard average, and he has three touchdowns.
Quay Parks leads the rushing attack with 236 yards, and he averages four yards per carry.
“They have a spread offense. They do a good job getting the ball in the hands of the play-makers,” Wiggins said. “It’ll be a tough game. We’ve just got to get on the road, and play our kind of ball, and limit our mistakes, and turnovers, and hopefully we can get a win.”
Callaway has done nothing but win so far.
Callaway opened with a 37-6 victory over LaGrange, and it followed that up with a dramatic 42-28 road win over Handley when it scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
Callaway then beat Columbus 28-6, Upson-Lee 34-7 and Harris County 48-21 to improve to 5-0.
“We talked about our non-region schedule. We hope that is has prepared us for our region games,” Wiggins said. “It’s been a tough non-region schedule. Now everybody is 0-0. It’s kind of a brand-new season at this point.”
A key to Callaway’s success so far has been an explosive and versatile offense.
Callaway’s running game has been unstoppable, with junior DJ Atkins chewing up opposing defenses.
“I feel like I can score on any play,” Atkins said earlier this season. “It’s just a matter of being patient, and letting my blocks be there. I can’t be out of control. But I feel like when I’m in space, I can make plays.”
Callaway has gotten it done in the passing game, with Dylan Johnson finding a host of receivers for touchdowns this season, including standout senior Braylon Sanders, who has multiple scoring catches.
DQ Wilkerson, Courtney Williams, Michael Freeman and Khaliq Swift also have touchdown receptions, and Johnson has a scoring catch from Wilkerson.
Leading the way is an offensive line of Keiondre Jones, Jalen Moss, Lawrence Thompson, John Curtis and Dominic Carter.
Callaway’s defense has given up some points, but it has been at its best in the second half of games this season.
In Callaway’s tightest game, the defense tossed a shutout in the second half of the 42-28 win over Handley.
Callaway defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard said the defense has focused on putting opposing offenses in uncomfortable situations.
“One thing we really put an emphasis on this year is we want to win first down,” Hubbard said earlier this season. “We don’t want second-and-four. Win first down, create some take-aways, and no matter what, just limit points. We can bend a little bit, but we can’t break. With that being our focus, we’ve done a pretty good job of doing those things.”
Callaway will continue its region schedule with a home showdown against Heard County next week, and it closes the regular season with games against Temple, Spencer and Jordan.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports