Callaway returns to Hogansville
By Kevin Eckleberry
HOGANSVILLE – For one Friday night in August, the lights of Hendrix Field in Hogansville shine brightly as football returns to the old stadium.
For decades, the stadium was home to the Hogansville High football team, but the school closed its doors in the spring of 1996.
When Callaway High began playing football in the fall of 1997, the team made Callaway Stadium its home.
When Pete Wiggins took over as Callaway’s head coach in 2005, he felt it was important for the school to re-connect with its Hogansville roots.
Wiggins thought playing a football game in Hendrix Field would be an outstanding way to do that.
So since 2005, Callaway has been playing a preseason game at Hendrix Field every year.
That tradition will continue on Friday when Callaway and Northside-Columbus face off at 7 p.m.
“It’s a great game every year in Hogansville,” Wiggins said. “The community’s excited about it.
“I get phone calls every football season from folks from Hogansville who appreciate the game. It means a lot to me. And I think it’s important for our school to have this game each year.”
This is the second straight year Callaway has played Northside in the preseason game.
In previous years, Callaway played Carver, Shaw and Greenville in Hogansville.
“The tradition from Hogansville, and the big names that played there over the years, it’s special to those individuals,” Wiggins said. “You just try to carry on that tradition. I feel like we’ve had some great contests in our scrimmage games in Carver, and Greenville, and Shaw, and Northside-Columbus. It’s big as far as preparing us for the season, but the bigger picture is what it does for the community.”
For some of the Callaway coaches, it’s like going home.
Defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard is one of a handful of Callaway coaches who either played or coached at Hogansville.
“It means a lot for our people from Hogansville, and for the people in that community as well for us to come back and play there,” Hubbard said. “And I think it’s good for the kids to get that small-town, small-stadium environment. Everybody’s right on top of you. It’s different. It’s kind of the way it used to be, more than the way it is now. That was a great idea by coach Wiggins.”
Hubbard added that “there were some big games back in the day, some good rivalry games. So it’s always good to go back.”
From a football standpoint, the preseason game is a valuable experience for the Cavaliers.
It gives Callaway a chance to get on the field against another team before things begin for real next week against LaGrange.
A year ago, Northside went 6-5 and reached the Class AAAA state playoffs before falling to Burke County.
Callaway, meanwhile, is coming off the best season in school history.
The Cavaliers went 13-1, and their lone loss came to the Benedictine Cadets in the Class AA semifinals.
“(Northside coach Morgan) Ingram does a great job with his team,” Wiggins said. “It’s a big school. They’ve got really good players. It’ll be a great challenge for us Friday night and I think it’ll answer some questions. We have some holes that we’re looking to fill, and a lot of things that we have to get better at. When you play a good team like Northside and they’re well-coached, it’ll tell you where you’re at.”
The Cavaliers head into the season having to replace nine critical seniors from last year’s team.
While those players provided valuable contributions on the field, Wiggins said what they did from a leadership standpoint was just as important.
“It’s a big opportunity at different positions, but it’s also a big opportunity for guys to take on leadership roles,” Wiggins said. “I think that last year’s senior class, although they were very talented, they were probably one of the best group of leaders that I’ve been a part of.”
Hubbard is looking forward to seeing how his defense fares against a strong Northside offense.
“Their two running backs are really good,” Hubbard said. “I’m not real sure who will play quarterback, but it’ll be a good test.
“They’re athletic, and you can tell watching film they’ve gotten a lot better in their system from the end of last year. So it’ll be a good test. They’ll come down here w