Cavaliers are running strong

Published 9:26 am Thursday, October 12, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

HOGANSVILLE – As the Callaway Cavaliers were marching toward a region championship and a berth in the state semifinals a year ago, they relied heavily on junior running back DJ Atkins.

Atkins answered the bell time and time again, and he ended up running for more than 2,000 yards for the Cavaliers, who won their first 13 games before losing to the Benedictine Cadets in the semifinals.

Atkins has continued to be a focal point of the Callaway offense this season, but he’s not having to carry nearly as heavy a load.

Through six games, one of the strengths of Callaway’s offense has been the ability of a host of different running backs to get the job done.

Atkins continues to lead the team in rushing with more than 500 yards in six games, but Cartavious Bigsby and Qua Hines have also excelled as part of the running-back rotation.

Fullback Gabriel Moultrie has also been a big part of the running attack, and quarterback Kedrick Ramsey has made some plays on the ground as well.

With a veteran, talented offensive line leading the way, the Cavaliers have been a prolific running team, and they’ll look to keep it going on Friday when they visit the Heard County Braves for a Region 5-AA showdown.

“There’s a great confidence between the three of them,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said of the three primary ball-carriers. “They all bring something a little different, and I think it’s been really good for us. I feel like they’re running hard, and I feel like the offensive line is doing a good job.”

While Atkins likely won’t have a second straight 2,000-yard season, he has been an effective runner once again, averaging nearly seven yards per carry, and he has three touchdowns.

Sophomore Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby has run for nearly 400 yards this season while averaging more than seven yards a carry, and he has scored four touchdowns.

Hines has run for more than 200 yards

He’s averaging 10 yards every time he touches the ball.

“When I’m out of the game, there’s still a good running back in the game,” Atkins said. “I feel like we have a lot of options this year.”

The 5-foot-9 Atkins is an explosive back who has the speed to leave even the fastest defensive players in his wake, and he never shies away from contact.

Bigsby saw limited playing time at running back a year ago, but he was only a freshman.

Now, Bigsby is a centerpiece of the offense, and he is a powerful runner who is also a defensive standout.

In last week’s win over Lamar County, Bigsby led the team with 106 yards on just seven carries with two touchdowns.

Like Atkins, Bigsby believes the depth at running back is a key to the team’s success.

“I like it like that,” Bigsby said. “Whatever will get us a W. That’s all that matters. It can’t get any better.”

Hines has the fewest carries among the top three backs, and he has made the most of his touches, and he also threw a touchdown pass to Jacob Freeman in a win over Upson-Lee.

Moultrie is primarily a blocker from his fullback position, but he has made some big plays with the ball in his hands, and he had a touchdown run in last week’s win over Lamar County.

Moultrie said he, and all of his teammates, leave nothing on the field when a game is done.

“It’s just unlimited effort,” Moultrie said. “Everybody’s grinding, no matter what’s going on in the game. It’s Callaway football. Everybody is just full speed every single play, and you keep going until you give out. And when you give out, you keep going more. I love it.”

Ramsey has run for more than 100 yards himself, and he has thrown for more than 600 yards with five touchdowns.

The Cavaliers throw the ball about 10 times per game, and a lot of times those attempts turn into big plays, and Ramsey believes that’s a credit to the running game.

“We have more than just DJ. It does a lot for our team,” Ramsey said of the depth at running back. “And then the defense focuses on the run game, and it opens up the passing game.”

Paving the way for the running backs is a powerful offensive line.

One of those men up front is junior Keiondre Jones, who is one of the state’s most heavily-recruited players.

“It’s real fun knowing that if you do what you’ve got to do play in and play out, those boys will do what they’ve got to do,” Jones said. “They’re going to go yard. So it’s a real good feeling.”

On Friday, Callaway’s ability to run the ball effectively will be put to the test against a stout Heard County defense.

As always, Wiggins said the running backs will be supporting each other.

“D.J., Tank and Qua all pull for one another and support one another, but still there’s a competition,” Wiggins said. “They want to be successful when they get on the field. But they all three praise the offensive line, and one another, but I think that competition is good for our team.”