Callaway set for preseason game
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Callaway Cavaliers won’t begin playing for keeps until next week, but they’ll be suited up and ready to roll on Friday night.
Callaway, which is ranked as high as second in Class AA in some preseason polls, will be at home for a preseason game against Starr’s Mill, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
The starters are expected to play the first half, and head coach Pete Wiggins will empty the bench in the second half, with everyone in uniform getting an opportunity to play.
Callaway has been hard at work since preseason practice began on July 25, and the players were put through a rigorous intra-squad scrimmage last week, with referees on hand to lend some realism to the occasion.
“It was a difficult practice with the heat,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. “It was really hot. I think that did affect the kids, but I think there are a lot of positives in it, and we were able to get several of the local referees here, so we gained experienced with those guys working the field, working the practice for us.”
The scrimmage, as well as the preseason game, gives the coaches an opportunity to evaluate the players in a game-type setting.
Matt Napier, Callaway’s long-time offensive coordinator, kept a close eye on things during the scrimmage, and he’ll be on the sideline calling plays for the Starr’s Mill game.
“Anytime you get an opportunity to go out there in a scrimmage-type scenario, it prepares you for Friday night,” Napier said. “It’s always a good situation for our kids to grow from. You have that adversity and you have to push through it in a game-type atmosphere. And kids have opportunities to learn from it. You go back and evaluate the film, so it was really good.”
Callaway has a quick turnaround from today to its regular-season opener at Opelika on Aug. 22.
Callaway follows that up with non-region games against LaGrange, Cross Keys and Troup before opening Region 5-AA play on Sept. 26 against Temple.
“We’re looking forward to the demands of our schedule, starting with Starr’s Mill,” Wiggins said. “They’re ranked in the top 10 in Class AAAAAA in the preseason. They have a great program. They had a young team last year, and they’ve got a lot back. That’s going to be a great challenge for us. We’re looking forward to that game.
“The other games that follow out of region are going to be tough. Opelika, LaGrange, Troup, all those teams are in large classifications, and they’re very talented teams, and they’re physical and well-coached. So we have to be prepared. We always look at it as you have to play good people to get better. That’s what we do Hopefully it’ll prepare us for ultimately the goal of winning a region title, and the going to the playoffs.”
A year ago, Callaway opened its season with a dominant 35-21 victory over Opelika.
Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby, in an indication of what was to come in a memorable junior season, ran for 249 yards on 22 carries with three touchdowns to lead his team to the home win.
Callaway went 11-3 last season, and it lost to Rockmart 28-22 in the Class AA semifinals.
It was the third time in six years the Cavaliers made it to the semifinals, and they’re still looking to break through and play for a state championship.
Callaway, despite losing more than 20 seniors, figures to be in the title hunt once again.
It helps to have a player of Bigsby’s ability returning.
Bigsby ran for more than 2,000 yards last season and averaged more than 10 yards per carry.
Callaway has plenty of other offensive play-makers, including quarterback Demetrius Coleman, and wide receivers Jacob Freeman, Markus Morman, Antinez Blount and Jymere Jones.
Callaway does have to replace nine of 11 starters on defense, although linebacker R.J. Williams and Jalin Shephard return to lead the way.