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Cavaliers are running strong

By Kevin Eckleberry

kevin.eckleberry@lagrangenews.com

HOGANSVILLE – The Callaway Cavaliers have been one of the state’s elite teams in recent years, and consistency at the running-back position is a big reason why.

The Cavaliers have enjoyed remarkable success at that position over the years, and over the past two seasons, they’ve had back-to-back 2,000-yard runners.

In 2015, Cedric Maynard ran for nearly 2,500 yards in just 12 games during a remarkable senior season.

A year ago, DJ Atkins took over at running back, and he had a 2,000-yard season of his own for the 13-1 Cavaliers.

Before Maynard, Eddie Culpepper was the Cavaliers’ primarily ball-carrier, and he ran for more than 1,600 yards for the semifinal team in 2013.

While it obviously helps to have men who are gifted at carrying the football, a key to the Cavaliers’ success in the running game has been the performance of the offensive line.

“People know about the 2,000-yard rusher, and respectfully so,” said Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins, who also coaches the offensive linemen. “That’s been very special with D.J. Atkins, and Cedric Maynard, and Eddie Culpepper before.”

Nothing happens without the offensive linemen doing their job, though.

“You know those guys up front have done a really good job over the years,” Wiggins said. “Again, it takes a special kid to play that position. There’s not a lot of glory in it.

“When we get into practice, they don’t come off the field a lot. It takes a physical toughness, but also a mental toughness.”

Atkins figures to put up big numbers again this season with a veteran offensive line leading the way.

Keiondre Jones, Lawrence Thompson, John Curtis and Jalen Moss all started last season, and Adrian Porter and Keshawn Cameron will play on the offensive line as well.

“It’s a good group,” Wiggins said. “They’re tough, and they’re smart, and they play physical football.”

LAGRANGE: Dexter Fitzpatrick, who will be one of the leaders of LaGrange’s defense this season, was the winner of the team’s ironman competition that was held at the start of preseason practice.

The ironman competition, which has been a fixture at LaGrange for decades, featured a number of different events designed to test the players when it comes to speed, strength, endurance, and mental toughness.

After the three-day event concluded, the results were tabulated, and Fitzpatrick finished with 303 points to out-distance Vondez Taylor (289 points).

Myles Johnson (273), Chris Beasley (269), Cornell Kendrick (268), Lequincy Sheppard (255), Jeremiah Holloway (251), Jakoby Smith (245), Taj Hixon (237) and Dylan Norvell (236) rounded out the  ironman top 10.

On a defense with a lot of new starters, Fitzpatrick provides a veteran presence after coming through with a strong sophomore season.

Fitzpatrick is also a standout wrestler at LaGrange.

At the moment, it’s all about football for Fitzpatrick, and the linebacker will be a focal part of the defense.

“Dexter’s coming into the season as a two-year starter,” LaGrange head coach Dialleo Burks said. “He’s like the quarterback of the defense. He makes all the calls. He’s also the energy man as well. They feed off of him.”

TROUP: Troup scored 48 points in its preseason game against Harris County, so the offense obviously functioned just fine.

The Tigers do head into the season with some question marks at the running-back position, though.

A year ago, senior Camren Russell was a big play waiting to happen at running back, and his explosiveness was a vital component of the Troup offense.

“He was the guy you could give the ball to on third-and-long if you were going to run it,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “And he’d get a first down. We don’t have a running back like that.”

The Tigers do have a lot of depth at the position, and Jackson Davis and Tyree Carlisle both ran effectively last year.

Trey Williams, Marc-Anthony Dixon, Jase Godwin and Kobe Hudson will also carry the ball this season.

Hudson, a sophomore wide receiver, had a long run in the second half against Harris County to set up a touchdown.

“It’s going to be whoever takes care of the football,” Glisson said. “Whoever takes care of the football is the guy who’s going to run it.”

Quarterback Montez Crowe will also be a big part of the running game, and he had two touchdown runs against Harris County.

“I’m interested to see, when I turn him loose, what can he do with his legs,” Glisson said. “How can he run? I think that’ll be the surprising thing that he’s a better runner than he was last year.”