Callaway line stands tall

Published 12:42 pm Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Daily News

So far, so good.

On a Callaway offense that returns so many gifted play-makers, the offensive line is a question mark.

While two starters return, three members of last year’s offensive line graduated, including four-year starter Keiondre Jones, who is now at Auburn.

On Friday night at Callaway Stadium, Callaway’s new-look offensive line passed its first test.

Callaway moved the ball well in a 48-7 victory over Starr’s Mill, with the starting offense scoring 21 points in the first half.

Quarterback Demetrius Coleman threw two touchdown passes to Jacob Freeman, and Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby had a 90-yard scoring run. Bigsby had another scoring run called back because of a penalty.

Leading the way was an offensive line that helped Callaway control things up front.

“We’ve got some big shoes to fill from last year,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. “I’m proud of their execution, and the leverage that we had throughout the night.”

Callaway returns two starting offensive linemen from last season, Tate Johnson (left tackle) and Austin Thomas (right guard).

Jared Nation played last season and will hold down a starting spot this season at left guard, and Zach Neighbors (center) and Lathan Patterson (right tackle) also started in Friday’s game.

Christian Moon and Jacob Miles will be key members of the offensive line as well.

Nation knows some people have questions about the offensive line because of the players that were lost, and he said he and the other linemen are embracing that.

“We’re taking it, and we’re using it,” Nation said. “We’re using it to practice harder. We’re working hard. We’re going to show some people.”

Nation added that “we still have our weapons, and we still have our quarterback and a great group of receivers. As long as we protect (Coleman) and do our job we’ll be at our best.”

One of the returning starters, Tate Johnson, has committed to Auburn where he’ll join former teammate Keiondre Jones for the 2020 season.

Jones, Adrain Porter and Keshawn Cameron were all multi-year starters who were seniors in 2018, and Johnson knows it’ll be a challenge to replace them.

“We know we’re not going to be as talented as we were last year,” Johnson said. “We’re losing Keshawn, we’re losing (Jones), and (Porter) was a solid guy for us. But we’ve embraced the fact that nobody thinks we’re going to be as talented. But there’s not a harder-working group on the field than our offensive line. We want to show people how good of a unit we can be this upcoming season.”

LAGRANGE: It took a while to get going, but once the LaGrange Grangers found their offensive rhythm, they were unstoppable.

Facing Kendrick in a preseason game last week, LaGrange cruised to a 34-0 victory in a tune-up for Friday’s season opener at Heard County.

Leading the way was senior quarterback Charles Crawford, who is back for his third season as a starter.

Crawford, looking comfortable running the offense, threw two touchdown passes and also had a scoring run.

Caleb Ross and Valshawn Patterson also had touchdown runs for the Grangers, who scored five touchdowns in the second and third quarters combined.

Crawford threw touchdown passes of 31 yards to Sam Yates and 18 yards to Cole Crawford, and he had a 3-yard scoring run.

Ross had a 45-yard touchdown run, and Patterson’s 8-yard scoring run capped the scoring as time ran out in the third quarter.

Cole Crawford, who didn’t play football the past two seasons but has worked closely with his quarterback during the summer and preseason practice, has been impressed with what he’s seen from his teammate.

Cole Crawford believes working with quarterback coaches David Pleasants has been a major benefit for Charles Crawford.

“Coach Pleasants has worked a lot one-on-one with him this year,” Cole Crawford said. “I feel like he’s gotten better. He’s rolling out of the pocket more, he’s working out of the pocket if everything collapses on him. I feel like he’s gotten better at a lot of things.”

Cole Crawford’s touchdown catch came late in the third quarter, and it covered 18 yards.

Crawford, who is listed as a tight end, figures to be a key part of LaGrange offense.

“They move me where I can also be a slot wide receiver, and I’m also on the line blocking,” Crawford said. “I’m just blessed to be where I am right now, and blessed to have all these coaches around me.”

Charles Crawford’s other touchdown pass came on a fourth-and-long play in the second quarter. Crawford threw a strike to Yates, who snared the ball in the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown.

Charles Crawford was also comfortable running the ball, and his 3-yard scoring run came on a boot-leg play.

Chuck Gibbs, LaGrange’s second-year head coach, is expecting big things from his quarterback.

“Charles, his arm strength is outstanding,” Gibbs said. “He’s power-cleaning 250, and there aren’t many quarterbacks doing that. His vertical’s over 32 inches. He’s 6-1, and has a great head on his shoulders. Working with coach Pleasants on a day-to-day basis, we’ve really got an opportunity where we can absolutely pick defenses apart now.”

TROUP: The Troup Tigers were one of Class AAAA’s most prolific offensive teams last season, and a talented wide-receiver corps was a key reason why.

Jamari Thrash, Joko Willis and Ja’Rell Smith combined for 111 catches and 26 touchdowns for a Troup team that went 12-2 and advanced to the Class AAAA state semifinals.

Thrash and Willis graduated and Smith transferred to Harris County, so that’s a lot of production that is having to be replaced.

Troup’s new-look receiving unit was on the field for last week’s preseason game against Northside-Columbus, and it was up to the challenge.

Mark-Anthony Dixon, whose 2018 season was slowed by injuries, had a pair of touchdown catches from all-state quarterback Kobe Hudson.

Marquavious Kelley and Zy Varner, who didn’t have any varsity receptions last season, each had a touchdown catch against Northside.

Troup beat Northside 53-6, and it led 34-0 at the half while the starters were in the game.

In addition to the four touchdown passes he threw, Hudson also had a scoring run in the first half.

While the wide receivers made plays, Troup head coach Tanner Glisson was also pleased to see the tight ends get their hands on the ball as well.

“Luke Purnell and Andy Boykin caught the ball well,” Glisson said.  “They spread it around pretty good tonight offensively, so that was good.”

The receiver with the most experience is Dixon, and he showed off his play-making ability as well as his sprinter’s speed against Northside.

One of Dixon’s two touchdown catches went for 80 yards.

“I’m looking forward to this season for sure,” Dixon said. “All of the receivers, we’ve all developed, we’ve all gotten better. I can’t wait to see what we can do.”