Callaway on road for preseason game
Published 11:56 pm Thursday, August 9, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Callaway Cavaliers will face some top-notch competition today when they travel to Fayetteville to take on the Starr’s Mill Panthers in a preseason game.
Starr’s Mill went 11-2 last season and reached the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals before losing to eventual state-champion Rome.
Callaway also went 11-2, and it fell to Brooks County in the Class AA quarterfinals.
Today’s game will serve as a warm-up for Callaway’s regular-season opener against Opelika on Aug. 24 at Callaway Stadium.
Opelika, which went 9-4 last season and reached the quarterfinals of the Alabama Class AAAAAA state playoffs, will present another major test for Callaway.
“I feel like that this schedule might be the most difficult schedule I’ve put together,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. “There are some challenges. Right out of the gate we play Starr’s Mill, and they’re a final eight AAAAA school. So we’ll see where we’re at really early.”
Despite losing a talented group of seniors, Callaway enters the season with typically high expectations.
On offense, running back Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby and offensive linemen Keiondre Jones and Keshawn Cameron have made various preseason all-state teams.
Quarterback and wide receiver Jacob Freeman is another explosive offensive player for the Cavaliers, and sophomore Demetrius Coleman has been working at quarterback during the preseason.
Freeman and Coleman will both receive plenty of playing time in today’s game.
“Both of them look good, and both of them have done a good job of leading, and carrying themselves in the huddle,” Wiggins said. “That’s a lot to it as far as being able to run the show, and demanding the respect of their teammates in the huddle.
Other offensive players to watch include running back Charlie Dixon, who along with Bigsby had a big spring game, and a group of gifted if untested wide receivers.
On the defensive side, defensive lineman Nathan Sapp, linebacker Tely Fanning and safety Qua Hines will be among the players Wiggins will rely on.
There will be a number of new defensive starters, but Wiggins is confident it will be another strong group with defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard leading the way.
“Coach Hubbard always gets the most out of his kids,” Wiggins said. “He brings an intensity to the defensive side of the ball. I think he does a great job of getting the kids to leave everything they’ve got on the field.”
Only three head coaches in Class AA have been at a school longer than Wiggins, who is heading into his 15th season at Callaway.
Wiggins is 115-42 in his previous 14 years, and he has guided the team to six region championships.
Since 2008, the Cavaliers have won at least one playoff game every but one, and they reached the state semifinals in 2013 and 2016 and the quarterfinals in 2009 and 2017.
Wiggins is joined on the staff by a handful of coaches who have been with him since the start in 2005, including offensive coordinator Matt Napier and defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard.
“We’ve all been together for so long,” Wiggins said. “There’s a great continuity there that I think gives us an advantage. But I think also, the kids see that closeness, and I think that’s special.”