Senior shines for Cavaliers
Published 11:24 pm Thursday, October 24, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Callaway Cavaliers came into the season with their share of question marks, most notably on the defensive side of the football.
The Cavaliers had a lock-down defense last season, and that’s a key reason why they made it to the Class AA state semifinals before losing a close one to the Rockmart Yellow Jackets.
That defense was hit hard by graduation, with only two starters set to return for the 2019 season.
Whatever questions might have surrounded the Callaway defense have been answered, though.
Beginning with the season opener against Opelika, Callaway’s defense has gotten the job
done week after week.
Callaway has given up 14 or fewer points in seven of its eight games, and it has held five teams to seven or fewer points.
One of the players who has helped Callaway’s defense thrive is senior defensive lineman Anthony Elliott.
Elliott was a linebacker last season, but there was a need for players on the defensive line, so he was asked to change positions.
Elliott has thrived at his new position, and he’s been among the team leaders in tackles every week.
Elliott started the season with a bang with a 12-tackle performance against Opelika, and he had 16 tackles, including five for loss, in the second game against LaGrange.
There’s a learning curve for any player adapting to a new position, but for Elliott, being a defensive end has fit like a glove.
“He played linebacker last year, and I thought he would struggle with a lot of things because it was different, but he was a natural from the first day,” said Jamal Bruce, Callaway’s defensive-line coach.
Elliott, who is also a standout wrestler at Callaway, was happy to make the move if it would help the team win ballgames.
“I just wanted to help the team out,” Elliott said.
It was an adjustment for Elliott coming from a position where he wasn’t right on top of the opposing players.
“The hardest thing is moving the person in front of you, because everybody’s big,” Elliott said. “At linebacker, you’re in an open space five yards from everybody.”
For Elliott, playing so well against Opelika let him know he’d be able to adapt to his new position.
Callaway lost that game 10-7, but the defense was outstanding.
“That was very big for my confidence,” Elliott said. “I feel like we should have won the game, and it’s one of the hardest games we’ve played this year. It helped us a lot.”
Elliott is also grateful to have a position coach who he knows is looking out for the players.
“Coach Bruce is like an older brother,” Elliott said. “He doesn’t scorn you, he just tells you to give it everything you’ve got, and he teaches you if you do something wrong.”
Bruce has had to rebuild a defensive line that was made up of almost all seniors last season.
The defensive ends are Elliott, Keshawn Suggs and freshman Sam Williams, and the defensive tackles are Jabari Smith, Caden Prather, Tre Stephens and Lathan Patterson.
Wiggins is happy to have some of Elliott’s ability and character leading that defensive line.
“He’s a great leader in our school, a great leader on our football team,” Wiggins said. “He works his butt off in the weight room, on the football field, on the wrestling mat. He walks around the school with a lot of integrity.”