State journey continues for Cavaliers, Tigers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They’re facing the champs.
After dispatching Elbert County 27-14 in the opening round of the Class AA state playoffs last week, Callaway (9-2) will visit defending state-champion Hapeville Charter (10-1) on Friday in a second-round showdown.
Hapeville Charter eased past Coosa 32-10 in the opening round to move a step closer to a repeat championship.
The winner will face either Washington County or Brooks County in the quarterfinals next week.
Also this week, the Troup Tigers (10-1) will try to keep their season alive with a road win over Pickens County (11-0) in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
If Troup prevails, it would face either Thomson or Cairo in the quarterfinals.
Callaway’s challenge is a daunting one.
After going 14-1 on the way to a state title a year ago, Hapeville Charter has things rolling again this season, with its only loss coming to Allatoona, which is still going strong in the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
Callaway earned a shot at Hapeville by outlasting a quality Elbert County team last week.
It was tied 14-14 in the third quarter when Callaway found an extra gear and pulled away for the 27-14 victory.
Junior running back Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby, who ran for more than 300 yards with three touchdowns against Elbert County, feels Callaway can’t afford a slow start against Hapeville.
“We all know it’s going to be a challenge,” Bigsby said. “We’ll have to bring that effort from the start.”
Senior linebacker Tely Fanning, who had eight tackles against Elbert County, said we know “it’s going to be a big game, it’s going to be hard. If our offense and defense clicks, hopefully we’ll win.”
The Cavaliers advanced thanks in part to a monster game from Bigsby, who ran for 314 yards on 27 attempts with three touchdowns. Bigsby also had more than 300 rushing yards in a win over Opelika this season.
Qua Hines added 97 yards on six attempts, and it was his 75-yard scoring run that gave Callaway the lead for good on the final play of the third quarter.
Defensively, Callaway got a tremendous effort from its defensive line, with six different players coming through with tackles for loss.
Tre Heard was tops among that group with eight tackles, including three for loss, and Tyrique Andrews had eight tackles with 1.5 sacks.
Jalin Shephard helped Callaway clinch the win with a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter.
Troup advanced with a 42-28 victory over Oconee County.
The Tigers scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to go up 35-21, and they led by at least 14 points the rest of the way.
It wasn’t a flawless effort by the Tigers, but they won, and that’s all that matters this time of year.
“It wasn’t perfect, but we can fix everything tomorrow but the scoreboard,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “You can’t fix the scoreboard this time of year. You’ve got to go play, and you’ve got to win, and you’ve got to survive, and we did that.”
Troup’s high-powered and versatile offense was on display.
The Tigers had three different men run for more than 100 yards, including Tyree Carlisle, who had 133 yards on 20 attempts with a touchdown.
Quarterback Kobe Hudson had 108 rushing yards on 19 attempts with a touchdown, and Tre Williams ran for 100 yards on 23 attempts with a touchdown.
Hudson also got it done through the air, completing 10-of-18 passes for 225 yards with a touchdown pass to Joko Willis.
Willis, who moved from linebacker to wide receiver this season, had three catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.
Ja’Rell Smith added three catches for 49 yards, Jamari Thrash had one catch for 26 yards, and Mark-Anthony Dixon had one reception for 10 yards.
A year ago, Troup was primarily a passing team, but the offensive attack has been considerably more balanced this year.
“The thing is, from here on out, in Class AAAA football, every team is coached really, really well,” Glisson said. “They’re going to take things away. You’ve got to be able to win multiple ways. One night you may throw it, the next night the quarterback may run it, and the running backs might run it. You’ve got to win multiple ways in the playoffs. That’s why teams that are one-dimensional don’t stay around very long.”