Callaway looks for berth in elite eight

Published 11:17 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2016

By Kevin Eckleberry

HOGANSVILLE – This has been the stumbling block for the Callaway Cavaliers the past two seasons.

Callaway made it to the second round of the state playoffs in 2014 and 2015, but it was unable to advance any further either year.

In 2014, LaGrange beat Ringgold 35-7 in the first round of the playoffs, but it lost to Washington County 31-7 the following week.

Last year, Callaway handled Hart County 38-20 in the opening round before falling to eventual state champion Westminster 49-28 in the second round at Callaway Stadium.

Callaway (11-0) will try to reverse its second-round fortunes when it hosts Brooks County on Friday, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. at Callaway Stadium.

Callaway, the champion of Region 5-AA, thumped Model 55-20 last week in a first-round game.

“We’re trying to go all the way,” Callaway running back DJ Atkins said. “That’s what we’re working toward.”

Brooks County (8-3), the third-place team from Region 1-AA, edged Southwest Macon 20-14 last week to advance to the second round.

If Callaway wins on Friday, it would advance to the elite eight to play either Douglass-Atlanta or Screven County.

Brooks County opened with seven straight wins before dropping back-to-back games to Fitzgerald and Thomasville.

Brooks County ended the regular season with a 41-17 win over Berrien before going on the road to beat Southwest last week.

Southwest had the ball at the end with a chance to win the game, but a last-gasp pass in the end zone fell incomplete, and Brooks County survived.

Brooks County isn’t a stranger to playoff football under head coach Maurice Freeman.

A year ago, the Trojans went 10-3 and made it to the Class AA quarterfinals before losing to Greater Atlanta Christian 23-12.

This year’s Brooks County team features a high-powered offense with quarterback Jacolby Brown and running backs Naiquavis Sutton and Rahjon Holden leading the way.

In the regular-season finale against Berrien that secured the region’s number three seed, Brown had a 50-yard touchdown run, and Sutton and Holden combined for 106 yards on 19 carries.

For Callaway, last week’s game was more of the same.

The Cavaliers have known nothing but success this season, and they’ve won each of their 11 games by double digits.

While the machine seems to be operating at peak efficiency, offensive lineman Jalen Moss said there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

“We’re still working,” Moss said. “We’ve still got a lot of kinks to work out, the defense still has things to work on. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

If Callaway prevails this week, it would reach the quarterfinals for the third time school history.

In 2009, Callaway made it to the quarterfinals for the first time, and it lost to Fitzgerald 35-21.

Callaway returned to the quarterfinals in 2013, and it beat St. Pius X 35-21 before losing to Buford 24-14 in the final four.

Callaway has now won at least one playoff game every year but one since 2008.