Cavaliers move to 3-0 with win

Published 1:02 am Saturday, September 9, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – They’ve got this regular-season routine down pat.

The Callaway Cavaliers have now gone 22 consecutive regular-season games without a loss after handling the visiting Columbus Blue Devils 44-13 on Friday night at Callaway Stadium.

Callaway improved to 3-0, and it will face Upson-Lee and Harris County the next two weeks before beginning defense of its Region 5-AA championship.

Columbus hung tough for a while in the first half, getting within seven on a touchdown with 7:57 left in the second quarter.

The Cavaliers then showed off their big-play ability to blow it open.

Wide receiver Jacob Freeman threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to DJ Atkins on a trick play, and DQ Wilkerson returned a punt for a score to give the Cavaliers a 28-7 halftime lead.

Wilkerson returned another punt for a touchdown in the second half as Callaway took care of a Columbus team that held its own.

“I think they’ve got a good football team,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. “Last year it was a hard-fought game in Columbus, and it was no different this year. We expected that coming in.”

Despite the win that kept the Cavaliers unbeaten, Wiggins said “I felt like there’s a lot of things we’ve got to do better as far as execution. We had way too many penalties. But you’ll have games like that. On the positive side, I’m proud of our kids for finding a way to make plays.”

One of the men who made plays was Wilkerson, the senior who has thrived in the punt-return role this season.

Both of Wilkerson’s punt returns were longer than 70 yards as he showed off his speed and elusiveness while taking advantage of some nice blocking.

“I was dreaming of running one back, and I did,” Wilkerson said.

Wiggins felt special teams played a key role in the victory.

In addition to the punt returns, Callaway’s Noah Stephens and Hunter Williamson combined to make six extra points, and Stephens did a nice job on kickoffs.

Also, Stephens pinned Columbus inside its own 5-yard line with a well-placed punt moments before the safety.

“DQ Wilkerson had a great night tonight,” Wiggins said. “And I felt like our special teams changed the momentum and made some big plays. I’m real proud of those kids.”

On their second possession of the game, the Cavaliers went 57 yards for the touchdown, with Atkins scoring on a 22-yard run, and Stephens made the extra point.

Callaway padded its lead in the second quarter.

Gabriel Moultrie had a 74-yard run to put the ball inside the Columbus 10-yard line, and Bigsby scored on a 4-yard run on the next play.

Stephens converted the extra point, and Callaway led 14-0 with 11:06 remaining in the half.

The Blue Devils answered with a touchdown of their own, and they had the ball back when Kobe Jackson made a leaping interception.

On the next play, Callaway offensive coordinator Matt Napier opened up the playbook.

Quarterback Kedrick Ramsey threw a backward pass to Freeman, who heaved the ball downfield toward a wide-open Atkins.

Atkins caught the ball around the 20-yard line and raced the rest of the way to the end zone for the 60-yard touchdown.

Stephens made the extra point, and Callaway led 21-7 with 4:23 to play in the half.

After the defense made a stop, Wilkerson collected the ensuing punt around his own 25-yard line, and moments later he was in the end zone celebrating a touchdown with his teammates.

Stephens converted the extra point, and Callaway led 28-7, which was the score at the half.

In the third quarter, Stephens’ punt went out of bounds at the 2-yard line, forcing Columbus to begin a possession just outside its own end zone.

The Cavaliers took advantage of that break, with Sapp making the tackle in the end zone for the safety.

With 6:07 left in the third quarter, Callaway led 30-7.

Early in the fourth quarter, Wilkerson struck again, returning a punt about 70 yards for a touchdown, and Williamson made the extra point to extend the lead to 37-7.

After Columbus scored a touchdown to make it a 37-13 game, Patterson bulled through the middle of the defense for an 8-yard scoring run, and Williamson’s extra point capped the scoring.