New quarterbacks for Cavs, Grangers
By Kevin Eckleberry
When the 2016 season came to a close for the Callaway Cavaliers and LaGrange Grangers, it was time to say farewell to two accomplished quarterbacks.
The Cavaliers enjoyed the finest season in school history in part because of the presence of quarterback Dylan Johnson.
The senior was talented and was capable of making plays through the air and on the ground, and he also provided invaluable leadership.
In the quarterfinals of the Class AA state playoffs against Screven County, Johnson led the Cavaliers on a 98-yard, game-winning touchdown drive in the closing moments.
The Grangers had a difficult season, but with LaPerion Perry at quarterback there was always a chance of something special happening.
Perry and Johnson have moved on, and they’ll both be playing sports at the University of West Georgia.
Perry will play basketball and football for the Wolves, while Johnson will be a member of the baseball team.
So with Johnson and Perry embarking on their collegiate journeys, it’ll be someone new taking the snaps for their old teams when they clash on Friday night in the season opener.
The quarterbacks for those teams both got an opportunity to show what they could do during preseason games.
LaGrange played Heard County on Aug. 4, and it was Charles Crawford and DeAundre Towns taking most of the snaps.
Callaway was in Hogansville against Northside-Columbus last week, and seniors Chandler Lott and Kedrick Ramsey shared the snaps in the first half and for much of the third quarter.
Freshman Demetrius Coleman entered the game late in the third quarter and led the Cavaliers on a pair of scoring drives.
For LaGrange, Crawford got most of the first-team work during the summer, and he was the starter against Heard County.
The Grangers moved the ball well at times in their Wing T attack during the preseason game in Franklin, but they were unable to score in the first half, although Crawford appeared poised and comfortable.
“Charles did some good things,” LaGrange head coach Dialleo Burks.
Late in the second half, when both teams went to their backup players, Towns came in and led the Grangers on two touchdown drives.
Towns had a touchdown run, and he also threw a scoring pass to DJ Burks.
During the summer, LaGrange quarterbacks coach Dustin Ward said Crawford grew more at ease day by day.
Following an 11-on-11 competition in July where Crawford excelled, Ward said “he’s starting to get comfortable. He knows what to do now. It’s a matter of reps, and him staying confident.”
Burks said one of Crawford’s greatest attributes is his poise.
“It’s tough to rattle him,” Burks said. “He’s so quiet, you don’t know if he’s upset, or if he’s happy.”
Burks added that “he’s a very bright kid. He’s able to do a lot of things that you see on the next level. He has a lot of next-level tools.”
Towns, a sophomore who transferred from Greenville High, helped LaGrange mount a comeback in the second half after most of the starters had left the field
Towns had a touchdown run on a fake option pitch to start the fourth quarter, and he later found DJ Burks in the end zone for another score.
For Callaway, Ramsey and Lott went back-and-forth in the first half and into the third quarter.
Lott was at quarterback when the first-team offense scored its lone touchdown that was capped by a 28-yard run by DJ Atkins.
Callaway’s first-team offense had a difficult time finding a rhythm in part because of a large number of penalties as well as three turnovers, as well as a handful of recovered fumbles that slowed momentum.
The Cavaliers enjoyed their most offensive success when Coleman was in the game, although most of the starters were on the sideline by that point.
With the game tied at 7-7, Coleman capped a touchdown drive with a 10-yard scoring run with 2:31 left in the third quarter.
Coleman completed passes to Jymere Jones and Bryce Kurian on that drive.
In the fourth quarter, Coleman threw a strike about 40 yards downfield to Antinez Blount that set up a 20-yard touchdown run by Antinius Barnes.
“You can tell that Demetrius is going to be a special quarterback,” Callaway offensive coordinator Matt Napier said. “In the limited time you got to see him, he made a lot of plays for us. He’s the future, and we’re proud of how he played. And he played really good in the (spring game).”
Lott has the most experience at quarterback among the Cavaliers.
Lott started 10 games for Harris County in 2015, and he was on the field when his team lost to Callaway 33-17 last season.
Lott also played quarterback at Springwood School in 2016 before transferring to Callaway, and he was a member of the baseball team last spring.
Lott’s time as a Callaway football player has been limited, though, because of a broken foot he suffered in the spring.
“Chandler hasn’t been with us long,” Napier said. “He had the broken foot during the spring and almost missed the whole month of June. He’s come in and done a good job for us in a limited amount of time he’s had to prepare.”
Ramsey has significant varsity experience, albeit as a starting linebacker.
Now, Ramsey is set to perhaps lead the Callaway offense in the season opener.
“He’s a great leader, and he’s been around in our system, and he’s a great kid,” Napier said. “We’re getting him broken in and letting him learn our system and lead our football team. And he’s done a great job. And we’re getting him the quality reps he needs to get ready. “