Can Cavaliers make history?

By Kevin Eckleberry

April 29, 2014

They’re hoping to make history.

The Callaway Cavaliers, who have enjoyed a superb season, will try to get their first-ever state-playoff win on Thursday when they host the Jackson Red Devils.

The game will kick off at 7 p.m. at Callaway’s soccer complex.

The Cavaliers finished second in Region 4-AAA to earn a home game for the state playoffs, while the Red Devils are the number three seed from Region 2-AAA.

Callaway was also at home a year ago when it lost to Pierce County in the first round of the state playoffs.

Will the result be different this time around?

Third-year head coach Jake Hembree believes it will be if his team “shows up and plays hard.”

“I feel really good going into this one,” Hembree added. “I want them to play their game, and not worry about their opponent.”

The Cavaliers (12-5 overall), who are led by a group of 10 seniors, earned their home game by going 5-1 in the region.

The Cavaliers lost their first region game 3-0 to Central-Carroll.

“Nothing went right in that game,” Hembree said.

The loss didn’t derail the Cavaliers, though.

Callaway bounced back from the Central loss to beat Chapel Hill in a thrilling game that went to penalty kicks.

The Cavaliers then won their final four region games with ease to finish tied for the region’s top spot, but Central-Carroll earned the number one seed because of the head-to-head win.

“After we lost to Central-Carroll, we went 8-2,” Hembree said. “That was the spark we needed.”

The Cavaliers have been a prolific scoring team this season, averaging more than four goals per game.

Senior Kyle Jenkins and junior Kevin Craig have done much of the scoring.

Jenkins leads the way with 22 goals, and he also has 11 assists, giving him a team-high 55 points.

Jenkins has had six matches with at least two goals, and that included one game with four goals, and two others with three goals.

Craig has also found the net with regularity with 20 goals, and he has six assists.

Twice this season he has scored three goals in a game.

Another senior, Cody Tucker, has chipped in with eight goals, and sophomore Cameron Spinks has seven goals and seven assists.

Senior Eric Mullis has added three goals, and Tyler Neese has two goals.

Austin Lashley has just one goal, but he has been a key facilitator with 12 assists.

Senior goal keeper Josh Weddle, meanwhile, has had a strong season, giving up two goals a game.

Whatever happens on Thursday, it has already been a fantastic season for the Cavaliers, and now Hembree has challenged the players to do even more.

“We’ve never had a 10-win season, and I challenged them this year to get a 12-win season, and we got 12 wins,” Hembree said. “And then I challenged them to get a playoff win, and hopefully we’ll get it. If we play our game, it should work out.”