Callaway’s dynamic duo runs strong
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They are, in Callaway quarterback Jacob Freeman’s words, “the dynamic duo.”
Freeman and running back Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby were that and more during Friday’s season-opening game against Opelika.
The two men combined for nearly 400 rushing yards, much of that coming during the decisive second half, to lead Callaway to a 35-21 victory over Opelika (Ala.) at Callaway Stadium.
“We’re a good duo,” said Bigsby, who like Freeman is a junior. “We’ve been doing it for so long. Hopefully we’ll go all the way this year.”
Bigsby ran for more than 1,000 yards last season while splitting the carries with DJ Atkins.
This year, Bigsby will be the featured back, and as he showed before a packed house on Friday night, he’s ready for that role.
Bigsby had 22 carries for 249 yards with three touchdowns, all in the second half, and he also caught three passes for 46 yards.
Freeman was hard to tackle as well.
In his first regular-season start at quarterback, Freeman had 10 carries for 125 yards with a touchdown, and he completed 4-of-7 passes for 71 yards.
Freeman, who was a wide receiver the past two seasons, is the latest in a long line of play-making quarterbacks at Callaway who have been coached by offensive coordinator Matt Napier.
“He’s really smart,” Napier said. “He sees a lot of things, and does things that a lot of kids aren’t able to do. He does a great job of commanding the offense, and understanding what we’re trying to do. And he’ll only get better as times goes.”
Freeman admitted to having some jitters, but that’s nothing unusual.
“I’ve been nervous since I was a little kid,” Freeman said. “I get nervous every game. But having a running back like Cartavious Bigsby back there is big, and having my offensive linemen, I love them all. They protect me. They keep me pretty.”
That offensive line commanded the line of scrimmage.
The group of Keiondre Jones, Braelin Mitchell, Keshawn Cameron, Adrian Porter, Tate Johnson and Austin Thomas made sure Bigsby and Freeman had nice running lanes to take advantage of.
Callaway’s running game was effective in the first half, but it was unstoppable in the second half.
“That’s how we plan it every week,” said Jones, a four-year starter who plans on signing with Auburn. “The first, and second quarters, we’re laying on them. And like coach Wiggins says, the 3-yard runs turn into 9-yard runs, and 25-yard runs, and 70-yard runs.”
The men up front have the appreciation of Bigsby.
“I’m proud of them,” Bigsby said. “They went the whole way, nothing but effort.”
The Cavaliers were trailing 7-0 when Freeman engineered an 80-yard scoring drive late in the first half.
He did it with his arm, and his legs.
Freeman completed passes of 26 and 11 yards to Bigsby, and one of 14 yards to Nathan Sapp.
The completion to Sapp came on fourth down and put the ball on the 17-yard line.
On the next play, Freeman kept the ball and scored on a 17-yard run, and Hunter Williamson’s extra point deadlocked the score at 7-7.
In the second half, Bigsby took over, finishing three drives with touchdown runs.
Following an Opelika turnover at the start of the second half, Bigsby scored on a 2-yard run to give Callaway its first lead of the game.
On Callaway’s next possession, Bigsby took off on a long run and had crossed midfield when Opelika’s Jaylen Stinson made a terrific hustle play and knocked the ball loose and recovered it.
The Bulldogs turned that fumble into a touchdown to tie the score, but the Cavaliers weren’t sweating.
On Callaway’s next offensive play, Bigsby had a 20-yard run, and he had a 24-yard run to put the ball deep in Opelika territory.
Bigsby capped the 72-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown run, and Callaway had the lead, this time for good.
In the fourth quarter, Bigsby and Freeman did the work on a 65-yard touchdown drive.
Freeman had runs of 16 and 30 yards to put the ball on the Opelika side of the field, and Bigsby finished things off with a 26-yard scoring run.
Callaway capped the scoring moments later, with the defense doing the honors.
The Bulldogs were driving when Markus Morman picked off a pass at the 5-yard line, and he stayed on his feet and raced 95 yards for the clinching touchdown.
Morman was pressed into duty because starting cornerback Demetrius Coleman was unable to go because of an injury.
“We knew he’d step up and make the play,” Freeman said. “We had no doubt in our minds that he could step up and make a play. We weren’t surprised. We weren’t waiting on it.”
Callaway will look to move to 2-0 when it takes on LaGrange on Friday, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.