County rivals meet in season opener

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 19, 2016

LAGRANGE – Two years ago, it was the Callaway Cavaliers staging a dramatic late rally to beat the LaGrange Grangers 20-14.

After fighting back from a 14-0 deficit in the fourth quarter, Callaway tied it late in regulation before winning in overtime.

A year ago, there wasn’t much suspense.

LaGrange took control early, and it never let up on the way to a 45-20 win.

Tonight at Callaway Stadium, those same two teams will be on the field once again, fighting it out for county pride.

Will Callaway have the upperhand, or will LaGrange make it two in a row over its county rival?

Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins, whose team is coming off a 10-2 season that included a region championship and a state-playoff victory, is expecting another tough challenge from LaGrange.

“We know it’s a tough game,” said Wiggins, who is in his 13th season as Callaway’s head coach. “It’ll be a big atmosphere. There’ll be a lot of excitement at the game. It’s always a physical game, and we’re just looking forward to it.”

LaGrange head coach Dialleo Burks, whose team went 5-5 last year and missed the playoffs, has a lot of respect for what Wiggins has been able to accomplish at Callaway.

“Coach Wiggins has done a real good job of being consistent with the guys as far as what they bring to the table,” Burks said. “They are a good-looking ball club. You look at what a team should look like, they’ve got it. They’ve got great looking skill guys, big linemen.”

Burks added that having the same core group of coaches in place for longer than a decade makes a big difference.

“Him and his staff have been together,” Burks said. “They know each other like the back of the hand, and that’s huge.”

Burks is hopeful his team will come out and set a positive tone for the remainder of the season.

“It’s not that you’re playing against them, you’re playing against yourself to be the best,” Burks said. “We want to come out and set the standard. We want to play hard.”

For both teams, it is the start of a challenging schedule, both in and out of the region.

LaGrange plays Villa Rica, Griffin and East Coweta before beginning a region schedule that includes state powers Sandy Creek and Cartersville.

Callaway, meanwhile, plays five schools in higher classifications before embarking on a region schedule that features, among others, an always strong Heard County team.

“Those games are really tough contests for us, but we feel like it’ll help us down the road,” Wiggins said of the non-region games against LaGrange, Handley (Ala.), Columbus, Upson-Lee and Harris County.

Also today, the Troup Tigers will begin their season with a road game against the Hardaway Hawks.

It’s the second season for Troup under head coach Tanner Glisson, and the team is looking to bounce back from a 1-9 campaign in 2015.

“They don’t know how to win. They don’t know how to get to that point,” Glisson said. “They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. Now we have to go learn how to win on Friday.”

In eight-man football, Lafayette Christian School will open its season today with a home game against Solid Rock Academy.

Lafayette Christian begins the season as the defending state champion in the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association.

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports

By Kevin Eckleberry