Cavaliers put title hopes on the line
Published 12:00 am Friday, October 28, 2016
HOGANSVILLE – The Callaway Cavaliers have plenty to play for today.
Most importantly, if Callaway beats Spencer, it will wrap up the Region 5-AA championship.
There are some other intriguing sub-plots, though.
If the Cavaliers win, it would give head coach Pete Wiggins his 100th career win, and it would also improve their record to 9-0 and put them one victory away from a perfect regular season.
So it’s a big night for the Cavaliers as they host the Greenwave at Callaway Stadium, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
Spencer’s program has made a remarkable turnaround the past two seasons under head coach Pierre Coffey, and this team brings a 6-2 record, including 3-0 in region play, into today’s game.
“Coach Coffey has done a great job, he and his staff,” Wiggins said. “Obviously their kids have bought into what he does. They play a tough schedule. They’ve got some really good play-makers.”
Coffey took over the Spencer program before the 2015 season.
He immediately set out to change the football culture, and the turnaround was immediate.
Last season, Spencer went 8-4, and it stunned traditional powerhouse Washington County in the first round of the state playoffs before falling to Dawson County in the second round.
It was Spencer’s first winning season since 1977, and it was the first time the team won more than seven games in nearly 50 years.
Now, Coffey has Spencer in the mix for a region championship.
Wiggins is hopeful the challenging schedule his team has played will have the players prepared for this challenge.
“We’ve played a lot of tough opponents, and good competition,” Wiggins siad. “And now you get down to a game like this against a great football game in Spencer. They’ve got a lot of good play-makers. They’re big on offense and defense, and they’ve got special players. We have to play a complete game. I know it’ll be a big atmosphere. It’s what you work for is to get to a game like this.”
Spencer has all sorts of weapons on offense, including quarterback Khalil Thomas, who ran for a touchdown and threw for another in last week’s 39-0 win over Lamar County.
“Their offense is really big up front,” Wiggins said. “They’ve got great size, and great quickness. They’ve got a good quarterback. So it’s going to be a tough opponent. We’ve just got to go out and do what we do. Eliminate mistakes, and play Callaway football.”
Spencer’s defense, meanwhile, hasn’t allowed a point in back-to-back games against Temple and Lamar County.
“Those guys are really talented players,” Wiggins said. “They play hard.”
Callaway will bring plenty of talent to the field as well.
The Cavaliers average 35 points per game, and they do it with a punshing running game led by junior DJ Atkins, as well as an explosive passing attack headlined by quarterback Dylan Johnson and senior wide receiver Braylon Sanders.
Sanders has touchdown catches in all but one game this season, and tight end Michael Freeman had two scoring catches in last week’s win over Temple.
Callaway’s defense has given up 100 points, fewest of any team in the region.
Callaway’s defensive line has been dominant this season, and the linebacker corps that includes Jonathan Leonard, Qua Hines and Michael Freeman has been piling up huge tackle numbers.
It also helps to have a kicker in Noah Stephens who is a lock on extra points and has a strong leg, as he showed earlier this season when he made a 42-yard field goal.
The Cavaliers have worked hard to get to this point, and now they’re ready to go out and win a championship.
“When we put in the work, from basically from January all the way until now, it’ll show on the field,” offensive lineman Jalen Moss said. “That’s what we’re looking for, to get region, get homefield for the playoffs and just go out and try to win a state championship.”
Added offensive lineman Keiondre Jones: “I think it’s going to be one of our best games. I think it’ll show a lot about how we’re going to play in the playoffs. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Callaway closes the regular season with a home game against Jordan next week, and the state playoffs begin the following week.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports