Hard-fought loss for Callaway
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
OPELIKA – The Callaway Cavaliers made things interesting late, but it was the Opelika Bulldogs hanging on for a 10-7 victory on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.
Trailing 10-0, Callaway found the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run by Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby with 53 seconds left, and Blake Eubanks converted the extra point to make it a three-point game.
Out of timeouts the Cavaliers attempted an onside kick, but the Bulldogs recovered it to end the suspense.
Opelika ran one kneel-down play, and the clock ran out.
Even though his team came up short, Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins was pleased with the effort his squad gave against a Class AAAAAA powerhouse from Alabama on a night when a lot of things went wrong.
“I thought our effort was high all night,” Wiggins said. “I thought that the determination in our kids was great. We just can’t give teams like Opelika, or any team, the opportunities we did with four turnovers, and at least 15 penalties. But I was proud of our effort, and proud of our physicality against a really good football team. They have a lot of tradition here, and for our kids to come up 10-7 at the end, I’m proud of their effort.”
Callaway’s defense, which replaced nine starters from last year’s team, delivered an outstanding effort.
It was a tough night for the Cavaliers on offense, and they turned the ball over four times.
Opelika’s touchdown came moments after it recovered a fumble at the Callaway 33-yard line. Late in the game, Opelika recovered another fumble in Callaway territory, but it was held to a field goal.
That the Cavaliers were in the game until the end was a testament to the performance of a new-look defense.
“I was really proud of their effort and fight tonight,” Wiggins said of the defensive players. “They were on the field a lot tonight, so we’re happy with the physicality of the defense.”
Opelika’s first touchdown came less than three minutes into the game, with Jarell Stinson scoring on a 3-yard run.
That was it for the first-half scoring, and Opelika took a 7-0 lead to the locker room.
It remained a 7-0 game until Marshall Meyers made a 25-yard field goal with 6:42 left in the game.
Following an interception, Opelika had the ball with a chance to put it away, but Anthony Elliott recovered a fumble to give the ball to Callaway at its own 18-yard line with 2:52 to play.
The Cavaliers were at midfield when quarterback Demetrius Coleman threw the ball deep to Antinez Blount, who beat his defender and made the catch at the 5-yard line.
Two plays later, Bigsby powered his way into the end zone from one yard out, and the Cavaliers were on the board.
Callaway’s hopes ended when Opelika recovered the onside kick.
Callaway is off next week, and it faces LaGrange at Callaway Stadium on Sept. 6.
“We just have to learn from it, and get better,” Wiggins said.
OF NOTE: For more on Thursday’s game, see Saturday’s sports section.