Cavaliers running strong

Published 9:04 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

HOGANSVILLE – Last season, Callaway High’s running attack oftentimes began and ended with DJ Atkins, and he responded in brilliant fashion.

Atkins finished his junior season with more than 2,000 yards for a Callaway team that went 13-1 and made it to the state semifinals.

Through two games this season, it looks as though Atkins will have some men to share the carries with.

In last week’s 35-0 win over Handley, Atkins had 11 carries, and fellow running backs Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby and Qua Hines combined for 11 rushing attempts as well.

Combined, those three had 22 carries for 159 yards, an average of more than seven yards per carry.

“I feel like last year we didn’t really rotate on offense a lot,” Atkins said. “There were a lot of eyes on me. Now, we’ve got Tank and Qua, and it’s like another me in the game. We’ll be very effective on offense.”

After a slow start against LaGrange in the season opener, Atkins put up 2016-type numbers in the Handley game.

Atkins had 11 carries for 81 yards with a touchdown, and he also caught a pass for nine yards.

In the second half, Atkins ripped off a scoring run of nearly 50 yards, showing off the speed and ability that made him one of the state’s top running backs a year ago.

It was what will likely be Atkins’ first of many touchdowns this season.

“That was a great feeling,” Atkins said.

Atkins nearly had another touchdown in the second half, but he was ruled out of bounds at the 1-yard line after diving into the end zone.

On the next play, Bigsby scored from one yard out.

Hines nearly had a touchdown of his own, but his scoring run of more than 50 yards was called back because of a penalty.

Quarterback Kedrick Ramsey is also a big part of the ground game, and he had a 6-yard scoring run against Handley.

The Cavaliers have also shown the ability to make big plays in the passing game, especially when Courtney Williams is the one making catches.

Williams has long touchdown catches in each of the first two games, and he had two receptions for 61 yards against Handley.

Jacob Freeman, DQ Wilkerson and Nathan Sapp also had receptions from Ramsey, who was 7-of-16 for 125 yards.

As gifted as the starters are, Atkins said there are plenty of other offensive players waiting in the wings who can get it done as well.

Among that group is freshman quarterback Demetrius Coleman, who has done a solid job of leading the offense when called upon.

In a preseason game against Northside-Columbus, Coleman led Callaway on two touchdown drives.

“We have a lot of young players, too,” Atkins said. “Our JV, they could play varsity. We’ve got so many players. It’s a great feeling. I feel very confident.”

TROUP: The Tigers get many of their big plays through the passing game, but they’ve been proficient on the ground as well.

In last week’s 35-6 win over Bowdon, four different players combined for 94 yards on 20 carries.

Leading the way was quarterback Montez Crowe, who ran for 36 yards on eight attempts with two touchdowns.

Tyree Carlisle had six carries for 22 yards with a touchdown, and Trey Williams excelled with 33 yards on five attempts, good for an average of 6.6 yards per carry.

Macenta Stafford only had one rushing attempt, but it was for a 3-yard touchdown.

LAGRANGE: The Grangers are still looking to get their running game going in their Wing T attack.

Cornell Kendrick, who has been the focal point of the LaGrange rushing attack so far, had 12 carries for 26 yards in last week’s 31-0 loss to Griffin.

Sophomore Dylan Norvell provided a spark with 19 yards on two attempts, while Trez Delaney and Myles Johnson were limited to a combined 12 yards on 10 attempts.

LaGrange was limited to 17 rushing yards, and that included a negative 28 yards on sacks of quarterback Jakoby Smith.