Back on Aug. 25, the Cavaliers opened their season against the Heard County Braves, and it was a whale of a game.
Two teams with no shortage of firepower traded punches like it was a heavyweight title fight.
In the end, it was Heard County that landed the final haymaker en route to a 43-37 victory.
It was a disheartening loss for the Cavaliers, but it was just the first game of many.
After that game, the Cavaliers went back to work, they got better, and after an off week, they returned to the field and trounced the Troup Tigers 28-7.
The Cavaliers were off and running, and they didn’t look back.
Friday night against Rockmart, the Cavaliers wrapped up the regular season with a 41-14 victory.
Callaway finished with a 9-1 record, and that included a 7-0 mark against Region 4-AAA foes.
The Cavaliers cruised to the region championship, finishing two games ahead of the second-place team, Chapel Hill.
When the scoreboard clock reached zero Friday night, the celebration was on.
After the opposing teams greeted each other, Callaway’s players and coaches huddled together, and head coach Pete Wiggins held up the region-championship trophy.
It was a special moment, one Wiggins, his coaches, and all of the players have worked awfully hard for, not just during the season, but in the months leading up to it.
Football is a year-round business anymore, and the folks at Callaway understand that.
From the offseason conditioning program, to the summer workouts and seven-on-seven tournaments, to the in-season practices, the Cavaliers do what it takes to be a winning program.
The proof is in the numbers.
Wiggins arrived at Callaway in 2005, and the team went 4-6 that season.
A year later, the Cavaliers went 5-6 and made it to the state playoffs.
In 2007, the Cavaliers were 8-3, and they haven’t looked back since.
Since 2007, the Cavaliers are 52-17 overall, and they’ve won four playoff games during that time.
That sort of winning football doesn’t happen by accident.
It begins with talent.
Any coach will tell you that.
It takes a talented coaching staff to no how to best utilize that talent, though, and to put the players in the best position.
Clearly, Wiggins and his coaches know how to do that.
Wiggins also often points out how much the support of the community has meant over the years, and that’s no doubt a big part of it.
As for this team, it’s a special bunch.
Offensively, I can’t imagine there are too many teams in Class AAA that have as much firepower as the Cavaliers.
It begins with junior quarterback Tez Parks, who does a great job of running the run-oriented offense.
Wilson Lindsey, Eddie Culpepper and fullback Devon Rosser give the Cavaliers three dynamic running backs, and while the Cavaliers don’t throw it a whole lot, when they do, Terry Godwin and Pedy Leverette are tough for any defense to match up with.
Godwin, by the way, has shown this season why Georgia head coach Mark Richt offered him a scholarship this summer.
Godwin has had an amazing all-around season, reaching double digits in touchdowns while scoring on offense, defense and special teams.
Against Rockmart, he came down with a one-handed interception and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown.
It was an extraordinary individual effort.
Defensively, the Cavaliers struggled mightily in that first game, although a lot of that had to do with the opponent.
Heard County hasn’t lost this season, and the Braves are averaging 44 points a game.
Since that game, Callaway’s defense has been terrific.
The Cavaliers are only giving up 14 points a game, and that includes the 43 points surrendered in the opener.
The Cavaliers appear to be playing their best football of the season at the moment, and that’s timely since the state playoffs are beginning this week.
The state journey begins with a game against Tatnall County, a .500 football team.
From there, things will obviously get tougher week by week.
In the second round, the Cavaliers would likely play traditional power Washington County, which is 9-1.
If the Cavaliers keep winning, they could face off against defending Class AAA state champion Peach County in the semifinals, and Carver or Thomson could await on the other side of the bracket.
First things first.
The Cavaliers aren’t thinking about anything other than beating Tatnall County, and then they’ll turn their focus to Round 2.
I can speculate, though, and this Callaway team appears to have everything it takes to hang around for awhile.
Whatever happens, it’s already been a special season, and it looks like this program is going to keep winning big for years to come.
It’s a good time to be a Cavalier.
TOUGH ENDING: A year ago, the Troup Tigers were preparing for the state playoffs after going 8-2 in the regular season.
The 2012 season didn’t yield the same results.
After falling to the Shaw Raiders Friday night, the Tigers finished 3-7, and they failed to make it to the state playoffs one year after going 9-3 and making it past the first round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2003.
It was a season of what may have beens.
In a couple of their games, the Tigers were overmatched, but in most of their games, the outcome could have been different had a play or two gone the other way.
There was the season-opening 15-12 loss to Redan when the Tigers thought they’d won the game at the end, only to have a receiver who made a catch in the end zone ruled out of bounds.
There was the 21-14 loss to Newnan in a game where the Tigers held a 14-0 loss after the third quarter.
And most recently, and most agonizingly, there was the 20-17 loss to Shaw on Friday that ended the season.
The Tigers made it deep into Shaw territory in the closing moments, but the door was slammed shut with a game-clinching interception by a Raiders’ player.
The Tigers, as they’ve done all season, kept fighting no matter the score, and they came within a whisker of pulling it out, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Still, while the record wasn’t what the coaches or players wanted, the effort was there, and this team never stopped believing in itself.
What Troup’s program has gone through has been well-documented.
First there was the dismissal of former coach Charles Flowers, and then a host of players decided to leave the program, most notably linebacker Reuben Foster, who is one of the country’s best high-school players.
It was a tough time for the program, but from Day 1 after he got the job, head coach Lynn Kendall said he was only looking forward.
Kendall did a terrific job of leading this program through a difficult time, even if the season didn’t yield the results he’d or anyone associated with the team had hoped for.
Kendall is a man of upstanding character, and he’s someone the players can look up to and know he has their best interest at heart.
Now it’s time for the Tigers to begin thinking about 2013, and it’s going to be tough to replace a talented senior class that included so many special players including Maurice Swain, Ricky Frazier, Lemonta Truittt, Malcolm Tatum, Dalton Hadley, Bruce Danford and others.
One significant bright spot this season was the play of quarterback Will Smith, who made dramatic strides as a sophomore, and he’ll be a guy the program can build around the next few seasons.
So while the 2012 season was a disappointing one, you know the coaches and players will do everything they can to make sure the program gets back on the winning track next year.
BACK IN THE PLAYOFFS: The LaGrange High program has taken a step back the past few seasons, but the one thing the Grangers have continued to do is make the state playoffs.
Since 2000, the Grangers have been in the state playoffs every season, a streak that has now reached 13 years.
A program the caliber of LaGrange’s, of course, isn’t satisfied with just making it to the playoffs.
The Grangers measure themselves by championships, and it’s been a few years since they were a legitimate contender to win it all.
Since 2008, when the Grangers made it to the state semifinals, they’ve lost in the first round of the playoffs every year.
That followed a stretch of seasons where the Grangers were as good as anyone in the state, winning state titles in 2001, 2003 and 2004 while coming close to winning a few others.
This season, the Grangers went 5-5, and that’s hardly an indication that the program is ready to start winning championship again.0
But the Grangers played a brutal schedule that included some of the state’s top teams, and that means they’re tested, and there’s nothing they’ll see in the playoffs that they haven’t seen before.
The Grangers have been a dynamic offensive team, scoring more than 30 points per game this season.
They’ve shown the ability to move the ball on anyone, and junior quarterback Zach Giddens has had a breakthrough season.
With offensive playmakers like Dee Smith, Dee Gates, Benny Gray, Clete Miller, Tavone Rivers and Demoton Boyd, the Grangers will likely be able to put points on the board against anyone they play, assuming they can avoid the turnover bug which has bitten them a few times this year.
The Grangers have more question marks on defense.
The Grangers have scored 31 points per game, which is fantastic, but they’ve also surrendered 28 points a game, which is not so good.
If the Grangers can find some answers on the defensive side, they could be able to make some noise at state.
Regardless, despite the .500 record, the Grangers have made progress this season, and this program is trending upward.
Now, the goal is go out and get a playoff win, something the Grangers haven’t done since 2008 when they won three playoff games.
To make that a reality, LaGrange will have to go over to Gainesville and beat Chestatee, a solid team that went 8-2.
Chestatee has eight wins, but it hasn’t play a schedule nearly as tough as LaGrange’s.
It’s a winnable game, now it’s just a matter of going out and making it happen.