Unbeaten Cavaliers start region play

Published 1:15 pm Thursday, October 5, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry


HOGANSVILLE – As the 2015 season got started, the Callaway Cavaliers were breaking in a bunch of new starters after suffering heavy losses from the final-four team from the previous year.

The inexperience showed, as a veteran LaGrange team overwhelmed Callaway 44-20.

Losing a regular-season game is a feeling the Cavaliers haven’t had to deal with since.

Beginning with a 30-14 win over B.E.S.T. Academy in the second game in 2015, Callaway has ripped off 24 consecutive regular-season wins, and it will put that streak on the line today against Lamar County in the Region 5-AA opener for both teams.

The game features two teams that have had drastically different seasons.

While Callaway improved to 5-0 with its hard-fought 28-27 win over Harris County on Sept. 21, Lamar County is 0-5, and it has given up 38 or more points in four of those games.

Both teams are starting over in a way, though, since this will be the region opener for both of them.

“We always tell the kids when you begin region play, everybody is 0-0,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. “And it’s a whole new season, and we have to be ready to go.”

Callaway is coming off a much-needed off week after making its way through a challenging non-region schedule that concluded with grueling games against Upson-Lee and Harris County.

In a road game against Upson-Lee, it was competitive most of the way before Callaway pulled away late for a 40-20 victory.

Senior linebacker Jonathan Leonard, who had a 17-tackle night, capped that victory with an interception return for a touchdown as time expired.

The following week, Harris County racked up more than 500 yards of offense, but Callaway survived 28-27.

Callaway, after trailing for the first time this season, took the lead with six minutes remaining on a touchdown run by DJ Atkins.

“Both Upson-Lee and Harris County are really physical,” Wiggins said. “They had big, physical kids, and both teams are coached really well. And there was a lot of emotion on the field during those games, and that means a lot. So again, coming away with wins in those games is very special. Both those teams are solid.”

The Harris County game was a shootout.

Senior Kedrick Ramsey, who has excelled in his first season as the starting quarterback, threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Freeman, and he scored on a 1-yard keeper.

Hines and Atkins also had touchdown runs, and Atkins ran for more than 100 yards.

In the special-teams department, Noah Stephens made all four of his extra-point attempts.

That was critical since Harris County missed its final extra-point attempt, keeping the deficit at six in the fourth quarter.

“Harris County, their running back and quarterback are great play-makers,” Wiggins said. “Anytime a team has explosive kids like that, there’s big opportunities for big plays.”

Callaway’s first three wins this season were short on drama.

After opening with a 26-0 win over LaGrange, Callaway blanked Handley (Ala.) 35-0 before thumping Columbus 44-13.

The Handley win was note-worthy since it came against a team that won a state championship in Alabama last season.

“I think (the tough schedule) will help us down the stretch,” Wiggins said.

Callaway’s final five regular-season games are all against region opponents.

Next week, Callaway has a showdown with Heard County before finishing against Temple, Spencer and Jordan.

After the regular season, the region’s top four teams will head off to the state playoffs.

Last year, Callaway reached the semifinals before losing to Benedictine, which won the state championship.

This year’s team could be poised to make a run at a championship as well.

“We’re excited about our football team,” Wiggins said. “We’ve got a good group of seniors, and they’re working hard and displaying a lot of leadership.”

Lamar County is under the direction of first-year head coach John Flath, and it has been a struggle.

Since opening with a 20-14 loss to Northeast Macon, Lamar County has lost to Jackson (38-23), Troup (62-10), Marion County (45-20) and Morgan County (41-21).

Wiggins does believe Lamar County is making strides under Flath.

“I don’t think their record indicates how good they are,” Wiggins said. “I think they’re well-coached. Their kids play hard, they come off the ball. So Thursday night will be a tough game.”