Cavs look to tighten up on defense

Published 12:21 pm Friday, October 20, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

HOGANSVILLE – The Callaway Cavaliers began the season with back-to-back shutout victories, and they limited their first three opponents to a total of 13 points.

In two of the past three games, though, Callaway’s defense has struggled a bit, giving up more than 800 total yards and 63 points to Harris County and Heard County combined.

Callaway will look to regain its defensive dominance when it hosts Temple tonight in a critical Region 5-AA game.

Callaway (6-1 overall), which lost to Heard County 35-28 last week, is in a four-way tie for second place in Region 5-AA with a 1-1 record.

While Callaway faces an uphill battle in its quest to win a third consecutive region championship, it still has a lot to play for.

If the Cavaliers win their final three regular-season games, they’ll finish no lower than second in the region, meaning they’d get to host a state-playoff game.

Last week, quarterback Emory Jones and the Heard County offense piled up 400 yards while scoring five touchdowns.

The Braves had five plays of 30 or more yards.

“I didn’t feel like we got off blocks as well as we have in previous games, and there were some tackling issues, especially when they got into the open field,” Callaway defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard said. “With their backs and their quarterback, they’re elusive, and both of those guys had a couple of big runs, and they had a couple in the passing game. They just make you defend the whole field, and it’s tough. We did some good things at times, but overall we gave up too many big plays.”

Senior linebacker Jonathan Leonard, who is having a big season, led Callaway with 13 tackles, and fellow linebacker Tely Fanning had nine.

While the Cavaliers moved the ball well themselves and scored four touchdowns, they also had five costly turnovers.

Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said the primary focus this week has been on correcting some of the shortcomings from last week’s game.

“We have to take care of Callaway. We have to take care of us regardless of the opponent on Friday night,” Wiggins said. “That’s what we focus on, and that’s what we’ll do, and everything else will take care of itself. Sometimes things happen for a reason, and that’s the way we look at it. We’ve just got to keep moving. So we put that game behind us. You learn from it, and you go on to the next opponent.”

Callaway faces another tough offense in today’s game.

Temple, which runs the Wing-T offense, averages 287 rushing yards per game, and DJ Winters leads the way with 707 yards on 97 carries with seven touchdowns.

In a win over Spencer last week, Winters ran for 127 yards on 27 carries.

“They’re not really fancy, but they’re good at what they do,” Hubbard said.