Callaway set for road game at Upson-Lee

Published 10:29 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

HOGANSVILLE – The coaching fraternity is a tight-knit one.

When game night rolls around, it’s a take-no-prisoner business, but when the clock hits zero, the coaches meet on the field and exchange a warm handshake or a hug.

They are competitors, but nonetheless close bonds and friendships are formed among coaches.

For Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins, one of the men he’s grown close to over the years is Tommy Parks.

When Parks was the head coach at Harris County, his team had some hard-fought games with Callaway.

When Parks left to become the head coach at Upson-Lee, he and Wiggins got together and decided to schedule a game.

Wiggins was looking forward to the game because he knew it would be a nice test for his team, but he’d also be able to coach against Parks.

When Callaway (3-0) plays Upson-Lee (2-1) on Friday, though, Parks won’t be on the sideline.

In early July, Parks suffered a massive heart attack, and while he survived, he is still dealing with the ramifications of that incident.

With Parks unable to continue coaching for the moment, Justin Elder has taken over the Upson-Lee program.

“Tommy Parks is as tough as nails,” Wiggins said. “He’s a great leader, and he’ll get through it. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, and we wish him the best.”

Wiggins said his connection to Parks was a big reason why he wanted to play Upson-Lee.

“We had a lot of big games when he was at Harris County,” Wiggins said. “We talked several times about getting this game set up. It’s always really special to play a team where you think a whole lot of the coach, and I think a whole lot about Tommy Parks.”

Elder has stepped in and done a nice job, and he has guided the Knights to a 2-1 record.

After beating Shaw 34-6 and Columbus 43-19, Upson-Lee lost to a strong Griffin team 17-7 last week.

“Coach Elder’s doing a great job,” Wiggins said. “Obviously the whole staff is. Their kids look really good on film. They played toe-to-toe with a top-five Class AAAAA school in Griffin. So they’ve got a great football team.”

Wiggins said Griffin’s defensive front will offer a major obstacle for the Cavaliers.

“Those kids are as good of defensive players as we’ve seen,” Wiggins said. “They’re big, and they run to the ball. They’re well-coached, and they give you multiple fronts on defense, and they do a great job with it.  It’ll present us problems.

“Each of the films that we’ve watched, they’ve really set the tone with their defense, and it’ll be a great challenge for our offensive line against their defensive line.”

Callaway brings a 3-0 record into the game after blowout wins over LaGrange, Handley and Columbus.

In last week’s 42-13 victory over Columbus, DQ Wilkerson returned a pair of punts for touchdowns.

Running back DJ Atkins caught a touchdown pass from Jacob Freeman, and he also had a scoring run.

Cartavious Bigsby and Lavaris Patterson also had touchdown runs, and Callaway had a safety in the second half.

Callaway’s practice schedule has been interrupted this week.

With school canceled on Monday and Tuesday, Callaway didn’t hold its first practice of the week until Wednesday.

“The kids, they worked hard today,” Wiggins said following practice on Wednesday. “They had a good day. I thought we practiced fast.”

Callaway completes its non-region schedule next week before opening Region 5-AA play against Lamar County on Oct. 5.