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Special year for Callaway

By Kevin Eckleberry keckleberry@civitasmedia.com

June 1, 2014

It was a loss, and for a team the caliber of the Callaway Cavaliers, there was no way to soften that blow.


The Cavaliers expected to win every time they took the field, and that didn’t change even when they were playing arguably the state’s best team in any classification.


The Cavaliers didn’t beat the Buford Wolves in the semifinals of the Class AAA semifinals, but they made a big-time statement in a loss.


The Cavaliers were the only team during the season to hold a halftime lead against the Wolves, and the 10-point margin of defeat was the closest anyone came to beating Buford during the 2013 season.


It was, in defeat, a shining moment for the Cavaliers, who put together the finest season in the history of the school’s football program.


It was also part of an exceptional school year for Callaway’s sports teams.


The boys’ basketball team also made it to the state semifinals, and the baseball team nearly made its own trip to the final four.


Other teams and individuals enjoyed plenty of success as well, making the 2013-2014 school year one to remember for Callaway High School.


On Tuesday, we’ll recap the 2013-2014 sports year for LaGrange High School, and on Wednesday we’ll review Troup High’s year in sports.


On Thursday, we’ll explore the year that was for LaGrange Academy and Lafayette Christian School, and on Friday it’ll be time to review LaGrange College’s year in sports.


Here’s a look back at Callaway’s year in sports.


The football team had enjoyed massive success in recent years under head coach Pete Wiggins.


The Cavaliers had made it to the state quarterfinals before, but they’d never advanced as far as the semifinals.


That changed in the fall of 2013, when the Cavaliers put it all together.


Callaway went 9-1 in the regular season and won the Region 4-AAA championship, and it headed into the state playoffs on a roll with seven straight wins.


The Cavaliers kept it going in the playoffs with a 62-28 win over Henry County in the opening round, and they thumped Pierce County 49-21 in the second round.


That set up a quarterfinal matchup with St. Pius, with Callaway hoping to get over the hump and reach the final four.


St. Pius put up a fight, but in the end it was Callaway walking away with a 35-21 win.


That victory set up the final-four showdown with Buford, which had overwhelmed every team it had faced to that point.


Buford had won each of its three playoff games by at least 30 points, and it hadn’t won a game by fewer than 24 points all season.


Callaway believed it had a chance, though, and the players showed that by standing toe-to-toe with the powerful Wolves.


In the first half, quarterback Tez Parks had a 22-yard touchdown run, and Eddie Culpepper had a short scoring run that was set up by a long completion from Parks to Godwin.


When the two teams went to their respective locker rooms at the half, Callaway was on top 14-7.


For the first time all season, Buford was faced with the prospect of a game that was competitive into the fourth quarter.


“To go into halftime with a lead over Buford, it says a whole lot about our kids,” Wiggins said.


In the second half, Buford got its powerful run game going, and its defense stiffened up and found a way to slow down the Cavaliers.


In the end, it was Buford earning the 24-14 victory.


“The third quarter, Buford did get a little momentum,” Wiggins said. “They put the ball in the end zone a couple of times, but our kids, they kept fighting. We played an entire ballgame with great effort, and emotion.”


It was a tough loss, but Callaway’s players had no reason to hang their heads, not after the effort they gave on that Friday night in Buford.


“I am so proud of our kids for obviously the way they played Friday night, but also the way they played all year, the way they’ve handled adversity all year,” Wiggins said after the game. “Not every day has been perfect. But they came to work at practice, and in the weight room, and it has paid off for them. They’re a great group of young men, and I’m so very proud of them.”


BASKETBALL

The Cavaliers, under veteran head coach Terry Hayes, enjoyed a memorable 2013-2014 season that ended in the final four of the Class AAA state tournament.


After winning the Region 4-AAA championship, Callaway won three consecutive home games in the state tournament to earn their invitation to the semifinals.


Callaway ended up facing a familiar opponent in the final four - the Buford Wolves.


Playing in Milledgeville, Callaway got off to a tough start and fought back to make a game of it, only to end up losing 92-76.


The Cavaliers finished 22-6, and they made it to the final four for the second time in school history.


“I am very proud of them. They overcame a lot. They did a good job,” Hayes said. “We started one senior, two sophomores, one freshman and one junior. I’m proud of those kids.”


The Cavaliers’ state-tournament run began with an 82-65 victory over Peach County, and they beat Thomson 87-81 in the second round.


In the quarterfinals, Callaway found itself leading by 10 points in the fourth quarter against Swainsboro, but the home team found itself clinging to a one-point lead with one minute left.


Swainsboro was down by three when it got the ball back with moments left in the game, but a potential game-tying 3-pointer didn’t fall, and Callaway had the 71-68 win.


For the first time in 15 years, a Callaway team was going to the final four.


“Everybody has it in their heart they want to win,” said Godwin, who was a part of three region-championship teams during the school year. “They put it on the floor. We all just give it everything we’ve got.”


Freshman Braylon Sanders said “everybody knows what they’re supposed to do on the court. When they get in, they just do it.”


Hayes said it was evident since the first day of practice that this group of players was concerned only with what it would take to put a winning team on the floor.


“It’s not always like that,” Hayes said. “It’s nice to have kids like this. They’re coachable. They have their fun sometimes, but they work hard.”


In girls’ basketball, it was another successful season under head coach Deyano Martin, who has helped turn the program around.


In the 2012-2013 season, the Lady Cavaliers finished second in the region tournament and hosted a state-tournament game.


They continued to succeed last season, finishing fourth in the region tournament to once again advance to state.


Taking on a region champion in Pike County, Callaway made a game of it, only to lose 49-38.


The Lady Cavaliers finished with a 16-10 record, and the future looks bright with most of the key players returning.


During the 2012-2013 season, the Lady Cavaliers posted a 16-9 record.


What makes the past two seasons particularly impressive, in the three years before the 2012-2013 season, the Lady Cavaliers won a combined nine games.


While the program is certainly headed in the right direction, head coach Deyano Martin said everyone wants more.


“We’re not satisfied,” Martin said. “If you win 15 games, you want to win 20 games. And we want to win at state.”


BASEBALL

It was another sensational season for a program that has done a lot of winning over the years.


The Cavaliers went 25-6, won a region championship, and captured a couple of wins in the state playoffs before falling to Cartersville in the final eight.


Callaway won the first game of that Cartersville series 1-0, with Perry Keith delivering a brilliant pitching performance.


It was Cartersville bouncing back to win the next two games, though, to secure the series victory and advance to the final four.


“I’m proud of our kids. I thought they fought their butts off,” Callaway coach Dusty Hubbard said after Game 3 against Cartersville. “There ain’t a bad thing I can say about them. I wish the outcome was a little bit different, but you’re going to win some, and you’re going to lose some. Tonight, it wasn’t quite good enough.”


Callaway reached the quarterfinals with two dominant performances in the state playoffs.


In the opening round, Callaway beat Central-Macon 15-0, and 10-0.


In the second round against Appling County, Callaway won by those same exact scores.


So through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Callaway won its games by a combined score of 50-0.


It was a team with outstanding pitching, with Keith and Nick O’Berry anchoring the rotation, and the offense was potent from one through nine.


Callaway had obviously hoped to make it further in the playoffs, but it wasn’t meant to be.


“We just have to find a way to close that door one year,” Hubbard said. “Being the last team standing, it’s not easy.


For one member of the baseball team, Terry Godwin, the loss to Cartersville put the cap on a splendid sports year.


Godwin was an all-state football player as a wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner, he was a starter on the basketball team, and he was a third baseman and pitcher on the baseball team.


In addition to the three region titles Godwin won, he was also on two final-four teams, and one quarterfinal team.


“It’s been great just being at Callaway this year,” Godwin said.


SOCCER

the Cavaliers did plenty right during the 2014 season, they were just hoping for a better ending.


The Cavaliers finished 12-5, they tied for the top spot in Region 4-AAA, and for the second straight year they were at home for the opening round of the state playoffs.


In a game that was close right up until the end with Jackson scoring a couple of goals with moments remaining, Callaway’s season ended with a 5-2 loss.


It was still a terrific spring for the Cavaliers, who won the most games of any soccer team in school history.


“Coach (Jake) Hembree has done a great job over the past two years as a head coach, just recruiting younger people who never played, and turning them into good players,” said Kyle Jenkins, one of 10 seniors on the team. ” The same with coach (Matt) Leonard with the girls.”


Leonard used to be the boys’ head coach, and he’s now the head coach for the girls’ team.


Under Leonard’s direction, the Lady Cavaliers finished fourth in the region and advanced to the state tournament where they lost to Pike County 3-0.


WRESTLING

Brandon Sutton put the cap on a phenomenal high-school sports career with a third-place finish in the heavyweight division at the Class AAA state meet in February.


Sutton also had a top five finish as a junior, and he was the anchor on the offensive line the past few seasons for the football team.


The past school year was especially satisfying for Sutton, who made it to the final four in football, and then nearly won a state title in wrestling.


“Coming from that great (football) season we had, and then this (wrestling) season, it’s been fun,” Sutton said.


SOFTBALL

The Lady Cavaliers made it through to the state tournament, and they were unable to keep pace with Pike County on the way to a first-round loss.


Still, it was a successful season for the team, and head coach Nick Drescher was proud of the way the players hung in there through some difficult times.


“The girls have had a tough year, up and down, on and off the field,” Drescher said. “They’ve handled adversity really well. They kept pushing.”


CROSS COUNTRY

Both Callaway High teams qualified for the state meet in Carrollton.


The girls’ team ended up finishing 20th in the state meet, and the boys’ team was 27th.


Sierra Jones paced the Lady Cavaliers with her time of 23 minutes 40, seconds, and Andrew Thomas was the top boys’ finisher with a time of 20:48.


TENNIS

For the second straight year, the Callaway girls’ tennis team made it to the second round of the state tournament.


After beating Jackson 4-1 in the first round at state, Callaway lost to Dodge County in the second round.


Callaway’s boys’ team, meanwhile, also made it to state, and it fell to Peach County in the opening round.


GOLF

Muhammed Nu-Man earned an invitation to the state tournament by finishing second in the Region 4-AAA tournament in Carrollton.


Callaway didn’t qualify for state as a team, but Nu-Man’s high finish qualified him to play in the state tournament.


TRACK AND FIELD

Tyler Sinkfield had a terrific spring for the Callaway track team.


Sinkfield finished in the top eight in two events at the state sectional, allowing him to compete in the state finals in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash.