Impressive region opener for Callaway
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The chase for a region championship began in style for the Callaway Cavaliers.
Callaway (4-1 overall) opened its Region 5-AAAA schedule with a resounding 34-6 victory over the visiting Temple Tigers on Thursday night.
It was the first of six region games for Callaway, which is looking to capture its first region title since 2016.
Temple, which should be a strong contender to secure one of the region’s four playoff spots, was outmatched against Callaway.
The Cavaliers moved the ball well and found the end zone five times, and the defense delivered a suffocating effort against a team that features one of the state’s most productive running backs in Phillip Johnson.
Temple was behind 34-0 before it finally found the end zone midway through the fourth quarter on a Johnson scoring run.
It was a complete effort for Callaway, which had a short week to prepare following its hard-fought 56-45 victory over Troup last Friday.
Antinez Blount, who had two touchdown catches from Demetrius Coleman, said the players quickly put the Troup game behind them and turned the focus toward the region opener.
“We’re working every day. We don’t take a day off,” Blount said. “Last week we beat Troup, and Monday we were back at work.”
Blount did his part to help the Cavaliers prevail on Thursday with touchdown catches of 33 and 34 yards.
Charlie Dixon, filling in for the injured Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby who is out with an ankle injury, had scoring runs of two and one yards, and Jalin Shephard electrified the crowed with an 86-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Callaway’s defense, meanwhile, did a superb job against a Temple offense led by Johnson, who had nearly 1,000 rushing yards in the first four games.
While Temple did score the late touchdown, for the most part it was stymied by Callaway’s defense.
“I thought we played well defensively,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. “Temple came in 3-1, and they’re a physical team. We made several big stands in the red zone that helped us get momentum, and helped us win the ballgame. The defense was physical.”
Linebacker LaQuize Gilbert, a member of that defense, said “the key was our preparation.”
“During the week, we knew what we had to do, how to stop it,” Gilbert said. “We had to just get everybody to do their role, and we knew we’d come out with the win today.”
The defense set the tone early, with Shephard picking off a pass on Temple’s opening possession.
On the next play, Coleman found Blount in the back of the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown, and Blake Eubanks made the first of his two extra points to give Callaway a 7-0 lead.
It was still a 7-0 game when Temple put together a nice drive and made it to the 1-yard line before Callaway’s defense stiffened.
Callaway made back-to-back tackles for loss before Temple quarterback Rufus Sims threw an incomplete pass on third down.
The drive ended with a missed field-goal attempt, and Callaway promptly drove 80 yards for its second score of the game.
Coleman completed a 20-yard pass to Blount, and Dixon had a 20-yard run as Callaway made it into Temple territory.
Dixon capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run and the extra point gave Callaway a 14-0 lead with 1:17 left in the first half.
In the third quarter, it was Callaway’s defense once again coming through with a big play, with Gilbert making a tackle on fourth down to thwart a potential scoring drive.
Two plays later, Shephard took a handoff from Coleman and raced 86 yards for the touchdown, and Callaway led 20-0 less than three minutes into the third quarter.
Later in the quarter, it looked like Callaway had found the end zone again when Jacob Freeman returned a punt for a touchdown, but the score was negated because of a penalty.
That Callaway possession ended with a lost fumble, but Temple was unable to take advantage of that break.
After a three-and-out, Callaway took over at the Temple 41-yard line following a punt.
After a Freeman 7-yard run, Coleman and Blount hooked up for a 34-yard touchdown, and Callaway led 26-0 with 1:49 to play in the third quarter.
Callaway’s final touchdown was set up by the special-teams unit, with Jabari Smith blocking a punt, and the offense was in business at the Temple 40-yard line.
Coleman got the Cavaliers close with completions of 23 yards to Markus Morman and 11 yards to Jymere Jones, and Dixon completed the drive with a 1-yard scoring run.
Dixon also had the two-point conversion run, and Callaway was ahead 34-0 with 9:31 to play.
Temple got on the board with Johnson’s touchdown run with 6:21 left.
Callaway made it to the Temple 5-yard line on its final possession before taking a knee to run out the clock.
C – 7-7-12-8 – 34
T – 0-0-0-6 – 6
C – Demetrius Coleman, 33-yard touchdown pass to Antinez Blount, Blake Eubanks kick, 5:10
C – Charlie Dixon, 2-yard touchdown run, Eubanks kick, 1:17
C – Jalin Shephard, 86-yard touchdown run, kick fails, 9:03
C – Demetrius Coleman, 34-yard touchdown pass to Antinez Blount, kick fails, 1:49
C – Charlie Dixon, 1-yard touchdown run, Dixon with the two-point conversion run, 9:31
T – Phillip Johnson, 4-yard touchdown run, kick fails, 6:21