Cavaliers put on show for their fans
HOGANSVILLE – It seemed to be a near impossible catch to make, and for a lot of receivers, it probably would have been.
When Callaway quarterback Dylan Johnson put the ball in the air, wide receiver Braylon Sanders was well-coverered, and the chances of him coming up with the reception appeared to be hovering around the zero-percent range.
Sanders went airborne, snatched the ball away from the defenders with one hand, landed, rolled over, and somehow managed to maintain possession.
It’s the kind of play that has made Sanders one of the state’s most heavily recruited players, and it’s something Callaway fans are hoping to see a lot of this fall.
The acrobatic catch came in Friday’s spring game, with hundreds of fans looking on at the team’s practice field.
The game put the cap on Callaway’s two-week spring-practice period, with the players spending two hours on the field under the observation of head coach Pete Wiggins and his staff.
Wiggins, who is heading into his 12th season as Callaway’s head coach, felt the high-energy scrimmage was a fitting conclusion to what he said was an extremely productive spring.
“We had one of our best springs ever,” Wiggins said. “We got a lot installed offensively and defensively. I was really proud of the kids’ energy and effort throughout the spring practice. We’ve got a lot of things to work on. We’ve got a lot of shoes to fill. But the enthusiasm and the attitude from the kids has been very positive, and I’m excited about that.”
The Cavaliers, as Wiggins noted, have a lot of key players to replace from last year’s team that went 10-2.
Among the departed players is running back Cedric Maynard, who ran for nearly 2,500 yards last season.
It helps to have a player like Sanders returning, who will be a senior this fall.
Sanders mostly played quarterback last season, but he began Friday’s scrimmage at wide receiver, which will likely be his position in college.
Dylan Johnson, who has plenty of experience at the position, was the quarterback with the first-team offense at the start of the scrimmage, and he did a terrific job of leading the offense.
The Cavaliers moved the ball at will with Johnson at the helm, although they were going against the second-team defense when they scored five touchdowns on six possessions to begin the scrimmage.
Johnson completed two passes to Sanders.
One went for a touchdown, and the other covered about 20 yards, with Sanders going up to make the amazing catch, which just happened to come a few yards from where a handful of college scouts were standing.
“He’s just fun to watch,” Johnson said.
One of the players hoping to help make up for the loss of Maynard is DJ Atkins, a junior running back who showed off some tremendous ability on Friday.
Atkins had a couple of long runs, including one that went for a touchdown.
“Replacing Cedric’s a huge deal,” Callaway offensive coordinator Matt Napier said. “But DJ made a lot of really good plays at running back. I was proud of how he played.”
Another standout at running back was Qua Hines, who had a touchdown run, as well as a run of about 20 yards on third-and-11.
Courtney Williams caught one of Johnson’s two touchdown passes, and Johnson added a scoring run of his own.
The offensive line, which is anchored by standout sophomore Keiondre Jones who has received scholarship offers from teams across the country, did a solid job as well.
Johnson, who was on the baseball team that reached the second round of the state playoffs, only had three practices before Friday’s scrimmage, but he looked right at home.
“Dylan look good today at quarterback,” Wiggins said. “Braylon looked good at receiver, and at quarterback. I’m just really proud of those kids.”
Johnson said he appreciated the way his teammates welcomed him back after baseball season ended.
“We played good. We played good together,” Johnson said. “They’ve been going at it a lot longer than I have with baseball and everything. For them to allow me to come back and get back into it was great.”
Callaway’s first-team defense was dominant when it was in the game.
“Keegan Woods looked good on the defensive side of the ball,” Wiggins said. “So did Jibrell Jackson and Michael Freeman, and all those kids. I was so proud of them.”
Everyone on the roster got a chance to play, including a handful of upcoming freshmen who Johnson said will be a critical part of the team.
“I think the main thing is our freshmen came up this year and they’re working their tails off,” Johnson said. “They feel like they belong here. They practice, and they’re working. They’ll help get us better every week. It’ll show on Friday nights.”
Callaway will begin its summer program in a few weeks, and then in late July, preseason practice will get under way.
Callaway will play Northside-Columbus in a preseason game in Hogansville on Aug. 12, and the regular season gets under way on Aug. 19 against LaGrange.
OF NOTE: For more photos from Friday’s scrimmage, check out facebook.com/LDNsportgs
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports