Cavaliers headed to Columbus
Published 10:37 pm Wednesday, October 30, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They’re on opposite ends of the spectrum.
While the Callaway Cavaliers (8-1) have won eight consecutive games and have captured the Region 5-AA championship, the Jordan Red Jackets are winless through eight games.
Those two teams will collide on Thursday night at Memorial Stadium in Columbus, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
It will be the regular-season finale for Callaway, which will host a state-playoff game on Nov. 15 against the number four team from Region 7-AA.
Callaway is coming off an impressive 34-0 win over Heard County last week that wrapped up the program’s seventh region title since 2008.
Callaway opened the season with a hard-fought 10-7 loss to Opelika, but it hasn’t lost since, and with a victory today it would carry a nine-game winning streak into the state playoffs.
“You’ve got to keep growing each week, and each day, and I think our guys are doing that right now,” said Pete Wiggins, Callaway’s head coach since 2005. “They’re getting better obviously on the field, but in the weight room. It’s a big process, and I’m proud of the guys and the way they’re working right now.”
Callaway put together a complete performance in last week’s shutout win over Heard County, which won the Class AA state title last season and had won back-to-back Region 5-AA championships.
The Cavaliers had it all working offensively as they showed off their balance between the run and the pass, and the defense didn’t allow the Braves to get anything going.
Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby, showing no ill effects from an injured ankle that forced him to miss most of three games, ran for 149 yards on 22 attempts with two touchdowns.
For the season, Bigsby has 864 yards on 76 carries, good for an average of 11.3 yards per attempt, and he’s scored 14 touchdowns.
Demetrius Coleman, who has had a phenomenal junior season, threw for 115 yards with two touchdown passes to Jacob Freeman.
Coleman also had a touchdown run to get the Cavaliers on the board in the first half.
The Cavaliers figured to be an explosive offensive team considering the players they had returning on that side of the ball, and they haven’t disappointed, averaging 40 points per game.
“We’ve had a core group of receivers coming back, and we knew that would be a strong point of our team coming into the year,” Wiggins said. “Obviously with Tank and Demetrius at quarterback, we felt like that would be one of our strengths, and it has been. (Offensive coordinator Matt) Napier’s done a great job and the offensive coaches of getting the guys in the right spot and calling the right plays. Those guys are making ball plays on Friday night.”
Callaway’s defense, with senior linebacker R.J. Williams leading the way with 11 tackles including three for loss, posted its second straight shutout.
A Callaway defense that only had two returning starters this season has been getting it done since day one against Opelika.
The Cavaliers have held eight of their nine opponents to 14 or fewer points, and they’ve given up a total of seven points in their past three games.
“Coming into this, we had two returning starters, Jalin Shephard and R.J. Williams, and R.J. has actually been out four games with an injury,” Wiggins said. “Looking at our defense, we’ve got a lot of young guys on our field, and I mean young not just grade-wise, but experience-wise. That means a lot when you play good football teams.”
Since opening night against Opelika, though, Callaway’s defense has more than been up to the challenge.
“The more the guys have had their hand down in the grass, the better they are,” Wiggins said. “We had a lot of inexperienced guys on the defensive side of the ball coming into this, and I’m really proud of the progression that they’ve made, and that our defensive coaches have made. I think we’re playing with a higher physicality each week, and to be able to play good defense you’ve got to play physical and you’ve got to run to the ball, and I think that the guys have done a great job of that.”
While things are going smoothly for Callaway, it has been a challenging season for Jordan.
After a string of games where they were competitive, the Red Jackets have been outscored 162-35 in their past three games.
CALLAWAY VS. JORDAN
WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Columbus (Memorial Stadium)
RECORDS: Callaway (8-1, 5-0 in Region 5-AA); Jordan (0-8, 0-4 in Region 5-AA)
LAST MEETING: Callaway beat Jordan 56-0 last season