Callaway, Heard ready for showdown
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
For the past two years, the Callaway Cavaliers have headed into their rivalry showdown with Heard County with a chance to win a region championship.
Callaway was denied both years, though.
Callaway lost a 35-28 shootout to Heard County in 2017, and it lost a 13-10 defensive slug-fest last season.
Callaway will try to turn the tables on Friday night when it hosts Heard County at what should be a packed Callaway Stadium.
Callaway (7-1 overall) is 4-0 in the region, and it would clinch the region title with a victory over Heard County, regardless of what happens in the regular-season finale against Jordan.
The Braves (3-4 overall) are 3-0 in region play, and while a win on Friday wouldn’t guarantee a region title, it would help.
“The Callaway and Heard is going to be a physical, hard-fought ballgame on both sides,” said Pete Wiggins, Callaway’s head coach since 2005. “There’s great pride and tradition on both sides. Coach (Tim) Barron and his staff have been together for a long time. They do a great job.”
Barron has been Heard County’s head coach since 2002, and he has guided the team to seven region titles as well as a state championship last season.
Wiggins took over as Callaway’s head coach a few years later and he has enjoyed remarkable success.
The Cavaliers reached the state semifinals in 2013, 2016 and 2018, and they made it to the state quarterfinals on two other occasions.
The Cavaliers have won six region titles with Wiggins at the helm, and they can add to that number with a win on Friday.
That either team would be in this position was far from a guarantee coming into the season.
Both teams lost more than 20 players to graduation, and many of them are playing college football this fall.
Despite that, Callaway hasn’t skipped a beat this season.
After a 10-7 loss to Opelika in the season opener, Callaway has ripped off seven consecutive wins.
Heard County, meanwhile, started 0-4 against a challenging slate of opponents, but it has been rolling since the start of region play.
“Both Callaway and Heard lost a lot of kids from a big senior class, but both teams are right back here again, competing for first place in the region, and competing for home-field advantage in the playoffs,” Wiggins said. “It’s what we expect. Heard County’s going to bring a great football team that’s well-coached, and they’re going to be hard-nosed, so we’ve got to be ready to go. I feel like our kids have had a great week of practice, and they’re excited about this opportunity to play Heard.”
Callaway features an explosive, big-play offense.
Junior quarterback Demetrius Coleman is having a phenomenal season while throwing the ball to a gifted group of receivers including Jacob Freeman, Antinez Blount, Jymere Jones, Markus Morman and Jalin Shephard.
In eight games, Coleman has completed 74-of-124 passes for 1,638 yards with 16 touchdowns, and he averages 22 yards a completion.
Callaway also has one of the state’s top running backs in Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby, who is back at full strength after hurting his ankle in the Troup game on Sept. 20.
Callaway’s defense, which only had two returning starters, has done its part as well, holding seven of eight opponents to 14 or fewer points.
Five times this season, Callaway’s opponents have been held to seven or fewer points.
Heard County, while missing some of the star-power it had a year ago, will still bring a gifted team to Callaway Stadium.
One of Heard’s top players is defensive lineman Tray Owens, and running back Alex Boyd is one of the leaders of a new-look offense.
Boyd ran for 142 yards on 10 carries in last week’s 37-0 win over Jordan.
CALLAWAY VS. HEARD COUNTY
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium
RECORDS: Callaway (7-1 overall, 4-0 in Region 5-AA); Heard County (3-4 overall, 3-0 in Region 5-AA)
LAST MEEETING: Heard County beat Callaway 13-10 last season