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Hogansville residents have Callaway spirit

HOGANSVILLE – The buzz and enthusiasm surrounding Hogansville this week has to be at an all-time high, with the hometown football team from Callaway High School getting ready to play in the Class AA state semifinals this Friday in Savannah at the football stadium of Savannah State University.

The Cavaliers are coming off a thrilling, topsy-turvy, emotional roller-coaster victory over Screven County in last Friday’s Class AA quarterfinal, where they trailed 14-3 at halftime and scored five touchdowns in the second half to prevail 35-34.

The 2016 season has been a dreamlike season for the Cavaliers and they will be taking their undefeated 13-0 record into Friday’s Final Four against Benedictine, a military school from Savannah, which will also carry a 13-0 record into the semifinals.

On the year, Callaway is averaging 37 points per contest and have proven to be one of the finest offensive teams in Class AA. Through Callaway’s first three playoff games, they have racked up 138 points and they look to continue that heading into Friday’s state semifinal.

Hogansville residents are excited to support the team.

“This is a dream for a lot of these players to get this far,” said Tammi Thompson, the mother of Callaway’s starting center Lawrence Thompson. “This team plays with a lot of heart. I think they’re going all the way.”

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A Callaway Cavaliers sign sits outside Rogers Pit Cooked Bar-B-Que restaurant in Hogansville. (James Simpson II | LaGrange Daily News)

“This team never quits. They believe in each other and they play together as one. I thought the turnaround game was against Handley (Roanoke, Alabama) [where Callaway was trailing 21-7 in the first half before coming back and winning 42-28]. The best game of there season was in the quarterfinal against Screven County. This is a special team. I think this is there year,” said Joe Thompson, the father of Lawrence Thompson.

Hogansville Chief of Police Brian Harr serves as a community coach for the kickers and special teams for Callaway and said the win over Screven County was one of the best games he’s ever seen. He spoke to the rapport that this team has among each other.

“The leadership style by Coach (Pete) Wiggins has been important,” said Harr. “It’s a family atmosphere and the team has a unique chemistry. We are a tightknit group that is filled with athleticism and plays with desire.”

Winnisia Patterson, the mother of Callaway’s sophomore fullback Lavaris Patterson, echoed the same sentiment about the playoff win over Screven County.

“Best Callaway game in a long time,” said Patterson. “We stayed on our feet the entire game. I was hollering and screaming most of the game. When we were down, I gathered some of the parents together to say a prayer. They just showed so much energy, determination and drive to come back. They really wanted this.”

“The game was very intense, emotional and nerve-racking versus Screven County. I think a lot of the players grew up that night. This team has shown a bond this year and have kept that one goal in mind. They have fought through adversity together and I think the passing of Kavon has really helped lift them up this year,” said Sabrina Williamson, the mother of Callaway’s kicker/punter Hunter Williamson.

Kavon Zelaya was a football player at Callaway Middle School who passed away five years ago due to cancer. This year would have been his senior year and the team, especially the senior class, has carried Kavon’s memory with them all season.

Referring to the Cavaliers dedicating this season to Zelaya, Williamson said there has been a “guardian angel” looking over the team all year long.

If Callaway happens to produce two more wins and clinch the first state championship in school history, then expect the small town of Hogansville to be in state of uproar and exhilaration.

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A sign with signatures from employees of Rogers Pit Cooked Bar-B-Que restaurant and its customers congratulates Callaway High School’s football team for advancing to the state semifinals. (James Simpson II | LaGrange Daily News)

“Winning it all for a small town like Hogansville would be great,” said Patterson. “I’m 98 percent confident were going to do it.”

“Everyone will be ecstatic,” said Williamson. “This is the 20th year anniversary of when Callaway High School was opened, so if this small town and these local boys are able to win the state title, then Callaway will put Hogansville on the map.”

“A state title would mean more credibility to the football program and will bring a sense of pride to Hogansville,” said Rogers Pit Cooked Bar-B-Que restaurant owner Randy Striblin. “Winning a state championship would not just be a win for these current players but for the past players as well. The support that this community has shown for this team has been wonderful.”

Reach James Simpson II at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155, or my email at james.simpson@lagrangenews.com.