Football teams put the pads on

Published 2:15 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Daily News

It’s time to put the pads on.

Preseason practice got started last week, with the Callaway Cavaliers, LaGrange Grangers and Troup Tigers each getting on the field in preparation for a season that begins in less than two weeks.

Today, teams can hold full-contact practices for the first time according to the Georgia High School Association calendar, as long as they’ve had five full days of conditioning.

Mandatory practice began on July 25, marking the transition from the summer programs for the local teams.

While the season doesn’t officially begin until Aug. 17 when LaGrange hosts Heard County, there will be a full slate of preseason games next week.

Troup hosts Northside-Columbus on Aug. 9, and Callaway and LaGrange play on Aug. 10.

Callaway faces a road test against Starr’s Mill, while LaGrange will host Kendrick.

LaGrange will be the first local team to play a regular-season game, and it’ll be a tough one.

Heard County, which made the semifinals in Class AA last season, visits LaGrange on Aug. 17.

It will be the debut for LaGrange under new head coach Chuck Gibbs, who has been working with the team since the spring.

Gibbs said the transition from the summer program to official preseason practice has been a smooth one.

“Ours hasn’t changed at all, except for we’ve had to pay closer attention to our time, making sure we keep it under two hours,” Gibbs said. “It’s been good. We’re growing.”

Gibbs is grateful that he’s been able to mostly fill his coaching staff, a process that took most of the summer.

“We had some semblance of a staff for a staff meeting today for a couple of hours,” Gibbs said.

LaGrange’s first two regular-season games are challenging ones.

After playing Heard County, LaGrange will take a week off before facing Callaway on Aug. 31.

Following a road game against Hampton, LaGrange opens Region 5-AAAA play on Sept. 21 against Central-Carroll.

LaGrange then has region games against Cedartown, Cartersville, Troup, Sandy Creek and Chapel Hill before ending the regular season against non-region foe Shaw.

Gibbs said his goal since coming has been to run “it more like a college program than I think it’s been run in the last few years. That part gets you really excited.”

Gibbs said the administrators at the school have worked closely with him as he has attempted to set up a schedule that will benefit the players.

“We’ll have times during the day to meet with them, times during the day to do physical therapy, times during the day to get them in the weight room and lift so we’re not stealing from practice time,” Gibbs said.

The idea, Gibbs said, is to “get faster, and we’ll get stronger throughout the year. We’ll have a robust weight program that will carry us well past summer.

Callaway will have its hands full in its preseason game, as well as its regular-season opener.

First up will be the preseason game against a Starr’s Mill team that went 11-2 and reached the state quarterfinals in Class AAAAA.

On Aug. 24, Callaway opens the season against traditional power Opelika, which went 9-4 in Class AAAAAA in Alabama and made it to the third round of the playoffs.

“I’m excited about playing Opelika,” said Pete Wiggins, who has a 115-42 record in 13 seasons as Callaway’s head coach. “Everybody I talk to tells me how talented they are.”

Callaway follows that up with games against LaGrange, Cross Keys and Troup before starting Region 5-AA play on Sept. 21 at Temple.

Following the Temple game, Callaway ends the regular season against region foes Bremen, Lamar County, Spencer, Heard County and Jordan.

Callaway saw its run of two consecutive region titles end last year when it lost a close road game to Heard County.

Despite that disappointment, it was another stellar season for the Cavaliers, who went 11-2 and made it to the state quarterfinals.

Overall, the Cavaliers have won six region titles since 2008, and they’ve made it to the quarterfinals or beyond in four of those years.

Callaway reached the semifinals in 2013 and 2016, losing to the eventual state champion both years.

Wiggins heads into the season with a familiar group of coaches beside him, including offensive coordinator Matt Napier and defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard.

Hubbard and Napier, along with a handful of other coaches, were a part of Wiggins’ first staff in 2005.

“There’s a lot of consistency amongst our staff, and I think that’s a strength of our team,” Wiggins said. “The work ethic of our guys I think is high. There’s an expectation that we want to be successful, and we’re going to do what it takes to win, and the guys work hard. So we’re looking forward to the season.”

Troup, like Callaway and LaGrange, will open its season against a formidable foe.

In its preseason game, Northside will host Northside-Columbus, which went 8-3 last season and made the playoffs.

Troup will then head to the northern part of the state to play Ridgeland in its opener on Aug. 24.

Ridgeland has been an elite team for several years, and it enjoyed a perfect regular season last season and finished 11-1.

Tanner Glisson, Troup’s fourth-year head coach, believes it’s an ideal opener for his team.

“We looked long and hard for that, and that worked out really well,” Glisson said. “That’s going to be a very difficult game to go to their place. And we really wanted to go on the road. We wanted to be tested.”

Troup plays its home opener on Aug. 30 against Columbus before finishing non-region play with games against Harris County and Callaway.

Troup begins its Region 5-AAAA schedule against Chapel Hill on Sept. 21, and it faces region foes Sandy Creek, LaGrange, Cedartown and Central-Carroll to finish the regular season.

After going 8-3 in 2016, Troup won nine games last season and won a playoff game before losing a 43-35 heart-breaker to St. Pius X in the second round.

Glisson believes that loss provided a lot of motivational fuel in the offseason.

“I think everybody in our locker room felt like we were better than the second round,” he said. “We felt like we were a quarterfinal, semifinal football team. We just didn’t play well against St. Pius. So I think that kind of sticks in their craw a little bit.”



Aug. 10 – at Starr’s Mill (preseason game)

Aug. 24 – vs. Opelika

Oct. 31 – vs. LaGrange

Sept. 7 – at Cross Keys

Sept. 14 – at Troup

Sept. 21 – at Temple

Sept. 28 – vs. Bremen

Oct. 5 – at Lamar County

Oct. 11 – vs. Spencer

Oct. 19 – at Heard County

Oct. 25. vs. Jordan


Aug. 10 – vs. Kendrick (preseason game)

Aug. 17 – vs. Heard County

Aug. 31 – at Callaway

Sept. 7 – at Hampton

Sept. 21 – at Central-Carroll

Sept. 27 – vs. Cedartown

Oct. 5 – at Cartersville

Oct. 12 – at Troup

Oct. 18 – vs. Sandy Creek

Oct. 26 – vs. Chapel Hill

Nov. 2 – vs. Shaw


Aug. 9 – vs. Northside-Columbus (preseason game)

Aug. 24 – at Ridgeland

Aug. 30 – vs. Columbus

Sept. 7 – at Harris County

Sept. 14 – vs. Callaway

Sept. 21 – vs. Chapel Hill

Sept. 28 – at Sandy Creek

Oct. 12 – vs. LaGrange

Oct. 19 – vs. Cedartown

Oct. 26 – at Central-Carroll

Nov. 2 – at Cartersville