Cavaliers keep things the same
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s the next game.
That’s the attitude for the Callaway Cavaliers this week, even though the game at hand will be played before a packed house at Callaway Stadium against a fierce local rival.
Callaway (3-0) and Troup (3-0) will bring unbeaten records and state rankings into Friday’s showdown, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
While it’ll be one of the most high-profile games in the state this week, head coach Pete Wiggins said the way the team is preparing hasn’t changed a bit.
“Friday night’s game is a big opportunity for both Callaway and Troup,” said Wiggins, Callaway’s head coach since 2005. “It’s a stage that you work hard for all year long, in the weight room, and in practice and at camps. But in the big picture, it’s the next game, and we look at it as the next game. We’re not preparing for it any different than we would for any other team that we play.”
It’s a mindset that has worked well for the Cavaliers over the years.
The Cavaliers have thrived under Wiggins’ leadership, reaching double digits in wins five times in the past six years.
Since 2015, the Cavaliers are 37-5, and they’ve won 30 of their past 31 regular-season games.
“The kids come to work each day, and they want to be the best we can be,” Wiggins said. “When we get on the grass we work hard, and there’s an expectation and a tradition here that we’re going to win. The coaches expect that from each other, and they expect that from our team. That’s part of Callaway tradition.”
Wiggins added that “we have a great family atmosphere here, and the kids, they pull for another, but they also demand a lot from each other. It’s a great competition here at each position. The kids work hard to get there.”
This will be one of the biggest regular-season tests Callaway has faced in recent years.
Troup, which returns most of the players from last year’s 9-3 team, has blown out each of its three opponents so far.
Troup has beaten Ridgeland, Columbus and Harris County by a combined score of 132-20.
Last week was more of the same, with Troup blowing out Harris County 53-6.
“From an offensive standpoint, I think their quarterback (Kobe Hudson) enables them to use the entire field with the ability for him to run, but also have a good running back, and they have a big group of receivers that can catch the ball,” Wiggins said. “And those guys are very explosive. I think their offensive line is very good. Offensively, they can present a lot of problems. Defensively, they’ve got a lot of guys that make plays. They’re big and they’re fast. So, they’ve got a good football team, and I feel like we’ve got a good football team. So it should be a big challenge for us.”
It’ll be a challenge for Troup as well.
Callaway, which is ranked second in this week’s Georgia Sports Writers Association poll, began the season with an impressive 35-21 win over Opelika.
After beating LaGrange 14-0, Callaway improved to 3-0 with a 50-0 road win over Cross Keys.
Callaway gets it done with a high-powered offense that includes one of the state’s most heavily-recruited running backs in Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby, who began his season by running for 249 yards against Opelika.
Jacob Freeman, who had a touchdown pass and a scoring run against LaGrange, has excelled at quarterback.
Leading the way is a veteran and formidable offensive line that includes three players (Keiondre Jones, Keshawn Cameron and Tate Johnson) who are being recruited by major-college programs.
Callaway’s defense was hit hard by graduation following the 2017 season, but that unit has excelled so far.
“Both teams have players that are difference makers,” Wiggins said. “It should be an exciting game. But again, we have to limit our mistakes from a turnover standpoint and minimize penalties, and play Callaway football.”
Wiggins added that “I feel like we’ve had a good week of practice, and our kids prepared well for it. If we can minimize our mistakes, and that’s from a turnover standpoint and a penalty standpoint, and play fast on defense, hopefully we’ll have success.”
No matter the outcome, Wiggins said everyone will have to quickly turn the page.
“At the end of the game, you have to go get ready for the next week,” Wiggins said. “So, it’s a big game in the community but it is the next opponent.”