Cavaliers chasing region championship
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They’ve been here before.
A year ago, the Callaway Cavaliers traveled to Franklin with an opportunity to win the Region 5-AA championship, but they lost 35-28.
On Friday night, Callaway will make the short trip to Franklin once again, and as was the case a year ago, the region title will be on the line.
Callaway (7-1 overall) is 4-0 in the region, and with a win over Heard County, it will secure the region title, no matter what happens in next week’s regular-season finale against Jordan.
Heard County (5-2 overall) is very much in the title picture as well with a 3-0 region record, and it closes the regular season with games against Lamar County and Bremen.
“It’s a great rivalry,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. “The two schools are close. Both teams always compete at a high level. Our coaching staffs have been consistent for a very long time. I think all those ingredients make it a great game, and there have been some really special games between Callaway and Heard over the years. Friday night should be another one.”
The two teams have played 20 times since 1996, and Callaway leads the all-time series 12-8.
Wiggins took over as Callaway’s head coach in 2005, and he has faced Heard County every year since then and has a 7-6 record in those games.
Tim Barrron has been Heard County’s head coach since 2002, and he has a 7-7 record against Callaway.
Both teams have consistently put themselves in positions to win region titles, and this year is no exception.
“We know that we’ll get Heard County’s best game Friday night,” Wiggins said. “Good coaches prepare their teams for those type of games. I feel like they’re going to get our best game. Both groups of kids will be ready to go. The atmosphere will be great. It should be a great ballgame.”
Callaway is in position to possibly win a region title because of a key victory over Bremen on Sept. 28.
Bremen came into that game unbeaten, but Callaway won 37-25, and it followed that up with blowout wins over Lamar County and Spencer.
Junior running back Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby had an epic performance against Bremen with 309 yards, including two 80-yard touchdown runs.
For the season, Bigsby has 1,238 yards on 117 attempts, an average of more than 10 yards per carry.
Junior quarterback Jacob Freeman has been getting it done as well, and he had had two touchdown passes and a scoring run in Saturday’s 30-7 win over Spencer.
Defensively in the Spencer game, senior linebacker Tely Fanning led the way with 10 tackles, including two for loss.
RJ Williams and Dre Towns each had six tackles, Tre Heard had 1.5 sacks, and Antinez Blount recovered a fumble.
Senior Hunter Williamson, who has been consistent all season, made a field goal and three extra points while doing a nice job punting.
Heard County, like Callaway, has an elite running back. Senior Aaron Beasley, who has committed to Tennessee, has run for 850 yards, and Alijah Huzzie is a play-making quarterback.
“Huzzie is a great leader, and a great competitor,” Wiggins said. “And Aaron Beasley we feel like was the best player we saw last year.”
Like Callaway, Heard County has a veteran, imposing offensive line that usually creates gaping holes for Beasley to run through.
Heard County’s defense struggled in losses to Hapeville Charter and Rockmart, but it has given up just 25 points during a four-game winning streak.
“The success of a football team is how you’re playing at the end of the season,” Wiggins said. “And I think Heard County is playing their best ball right now. They had some guys injured early on, and I think they’ve got everybody back. They’ve got a lot of senior leadership. So it’s going to be a tough matchup Friday night.”
If Callaway prevails on Friday, it will be the program’s seventh region championship since 2008, all with Wiggins at the helm.
“At this point, it’s on our shoulders to determine our path from here on,” Wiggins said. “Friday night is a great opportunity to put ourselves in a good situation in the region, and for the playoffs. To get to a game of this magnitude, all of the work that’s been put in, in the weight room, and in practice, in spring practice, at camps, it makes it really special. To see the camaraderie on our football team is great. Not every day is perfect, nor will it be. But there’s a camaraderie that comes with being together day in and day out. There’s a brotherhood that comes from being together day in and day out at practice, and being able to go through adversities, and share a lot of good times. Seeing kids lean on one another when times are bad, and good, is very special. I think that’s what makes this game so great.”
CALLAWAY VS. HEARD
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
RECORDS: Callaway (7-1 overall, 4-0 in Region 5-AA); Heard County (6-1 overall, 3-0 in Region 5-AA