Plenty of weapons for Callaway offense
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2016
LAGRANGE – Callaway’s Braylon Sanders is one of the state’s most dynamic wide receivers, and anytime the ball is in his vicinity, there’s a good chance he’ll make the play.
While Sanders is clearly Callaway’s number one option in the passing game, though, he’s far from the only one.
When quarterback Dylan Johnson drops back to pass, he does so with 100 percent confidence that the catch will be made if he gets the ball where it needs to be.
“It makes my job 1,000 times easier,” Johnson said of having sure-handed receivers. “And I have to go back and credit the O-line. They’ve played great all year. When you’ve got a good O-line, and you have receivers that we have with their athleticism, it definitely makes my job easier.”
It helps to have a play-maker like Sanders on the field.
The senior has nine touchdown catches this season, including a 51-yard scoring reception in last week’s regular-season finale against Jordan.
No matter the coverage, Johnson has no reservations about throwing the ball in Sanders’ direction.
“I always have had confidence in him, and I always will,” Johnson said.
Also in the Jordan game, junior wide receiver DQ Wilkerson had a touchdown catch, and Courtney Williams had a 40-yard reception that set up a score.
Williams was covered on the play, but Johnson dropped the ball perfectly over Williams’ shoulder, and the junior made the catch.
Sanders, Wilkerson and Williams are Johnson’s primary targets at wide receiver, and tight end Michael Freeman has made his share of catches as well, and he had two touchdowns in a recent game.
Running back DJ Atkins also has a touchdown catch this season, and it was Sanders delivering the pass.
Sanders, who was Callaway’s quarterback for the first half of the 2015 season before he went down with an injury, has also thrown scoring passes to Courtney Williams and Johnson this season.
Sanders didn’t play football as a freshman, but he had a breakout season in 2014 when current Georgia Bulldog Terry Godwin was playing quarterback.
In an effort by the the coaches to take advantage of all of his gifts, Sanders was moved to quarterback last year, and he excelled in that role before he was hurt.
When Sanders came back late in the season, he was a wide receiver and Johnson was the quarterback, and that’s the role they have both held since.
It has worked out well.
Johnson is a tremendous two-way threat who has the ability to make plays throwing the ball, but he is also an effective runner.
Johnson brings plenty of experience to the position.
Johnson played parts of the 2014 and 2015 seasons at quarterback, and he was under center for the playoff games both seasons.
Terry Godwin was Callaway’s quarterback for most of the 2014 season, but he was injured in the regular-season finale, and he was replaced by Johnson for the two playoff games.
A year ago, it was Sanders going down with an injury, and Johnson stepped in and excelled once again.
“You think about the years he’s played, and the big games he’s played in, even back to his sophomore year,” Callaway offensive coordinator Matt Napier said of Johnson. “He’s got a lot of experience behind center.”
Sanders has been a versatile player as well.
While his primary responsibility is catching passes from Johnson, he’s also a threat when he’s throwing the ball, and he occassionally plays defensive back.
Napier believes Sanders has been helped by playing multiple positions over the past three years.
“He’s football intelligent, because he’s had to play different positions,” Napier said. “Particularly the quarterback position, they understand what they’ve got in front of them, and the defenses. It brings an understanding and a knowledge of the game.”
Callaway’s running game has been up to the challenge as well.
DJ Atkins has more than 1,500 yards, and he has shown the ability to rip off the long runs, as well as fight for the tough yards.
Paving the way is an offensive line that has been superb.
Keiondre Jones, Jalen Moss, Lawrence Thompson, John Curtis, Dominic Carter and Thomas Hodge have been shoving opposing defensive linemen around.
Jibrell Jackson has provided exceptional blocking from the fullback position and has also been effective when called upon to run, and Freeman and Lichon Terrell have gotten it done at tight end.
Sophomore Tely Fanning, who has overcome two ACL injuries, has done a solid job running the ball as well, and he has a handful of touchdown runs.
It is a complete offense with no holes, which could spell trouble for Callaway’s playoff opponents, beginning with Model in Friday’s first-round playoff game.
“We’re blessed with playmakers all over the field,” Napier said. “And up front, we’ve done a great job so far, playing physical, and giving Dylan time on the play-action pass, and then letting DJ get to the secondary, and letting him do what he can do. They’ve done a great job allowing that to happen. And taking care of the football is a huge deal. We’ve done a good job of not turning the ball over.”
OF NOTE: For a look at Callaway’s defense, see Thursday’s sports section.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports