Cavaliers roll on with spring practice

Published 12:37 am Thursday, May 11, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

HOGANSVILLE – It wasn’t a particularly large senior class, but what it lacked in numbers, it made up for in impact.

There were nine seniors on the Callaway High football team last season, and it was an extraordinary group, and they helped lead the team to a 13-1 record and an appearance in the final four.

Many of those seniors will be playing college football this fall, including wide receiver Braylon Sanders, who is set to join the Ole Miss football team.

As the Cavaliers make their way through spring practice, finding a way to replace that group of seniors is a key focus for head coach Pete Wiggins.

“Even though we only had nine seniors, there are some big shoes to fill,” Wiggins said. “Not only the athletic ability that we lost, but a lot of leadership that we lost. So there are guys that we’re looking to try to lead, and that’s a big part of it. You’ve got to have good leaders that practice well, and that are motivators when times are tough. And there are tough times. So the leadership on the football team is very important.”

Wiggins called the departed seniors “a very special group.”

“Dylan Johnson, Keegan Woods, Braylon Sanders, Mike Freeman, Jibrell Jackson, Thomas Hodge, I feel like those kids have been here forever,” Wiggins said. “To start a spring without them, there’s a lot of holes to fill, a lot of great ballplayers. But there’s kids working to earn a spot, and a lot of energy.”

The show must go on, though, and the cupboard is hardly bare.

Among the players returning is 2,000-yard rusher DJ Atkins, as well as offensive lineman Keiondre Jones, who is one of the most heavily-recruited players in the state.

There are plenty of returning standouts on defense as well, including defensive lineman Lichon Terrell, defensive backs Courtney Williams and Kobe Jackson, and linebacker Kedrick Ramsey.

Wiggins said all of the players have shown a tremendous amount of dedication, not just during spring practice, but dating back to January when the offseason conditioning program began.

“Last Thursday made our 51st after-school workout,” Wiggins said. “We’ve had really good participation since Jan. 4. I’ve been pleased with the kids’ effort. They work hard. There’s no secret to success. You’ve got to work in the weight room, you’ve got to work on the practice field. So far, we’ve had good energy, and we’re just trying to get every everyday.”

The Cavaliers kicked off spring practice on May 3, and they will continue through May 19 when they take on the Troup Tigers at Callaway Stadium in a scrimmage.

While having a spring game against an opponent from another school is something different, Wiggins said the way the Cavaliers do things during the spring isn’t changing.

“Spring is very important to us,” Wiggins said. “We feel like it’s always a measuring stick of where you’re at as a football team. We go out and try to install on a daily basis our offense and our defense. We haven’t changed very much. Obviously there’s a game at the end of it on May 19, and it’s a big game. Troup has a great football team. They’ve got a lot of players back, and I know they’re working hard, and there’ll be a big crowd. We’ve just got to go do what we do, and that’s work hard every day, and work on our offense and defense, and work on fundamental football, and try to get better each day.”