Playoff time for Tigers, Cavaliers

Published 12:59 pm Thursday, November 14, 2019


Daily News

There are no shortcuts.

Practice for the high-school football teams in Georgia began in late July, but in reality, that was just another day.

For the teams hoping to take it to the next level and perhaps compete for a state championship, it is a year-round journey.

There is the offseason strength and conditioning program that usually begins in early January, spring practice in May, the all-important summer program, the strategy meetings among coaches, the team-building activities, and on and on.

It’s all about building a winning culture (sounds clichéd I know but there is something to that), of not only helping players become the best they can be, but of finding the right place for them on the field.

If it all falls into place, the coaching, the player development, the belief in the program, then something special can happen.

For the Callaway Cavaliers and Troup Tigers, that commitment to excellence and all that it entails has paid massive dividends.

Both teams enjoyed extraordinarily successful 2018 seasons that nearly resulted in state championships.

Callaway made it to the state semifinals for the third time in six years before losing a heart-breaker to Rockmart.

Troup set a program record for wins in a season while making it to the state semifinals for the second time ever, and it hung tough with eventual state-champion Blessed Trinity before falling short.

Now, both teams are gearing up for what they hope will be another extended playoff stay that may perhaps even end with a spot in the state-championship game at Georgia State Stadium.

Callaway (9-1 overall), after another phenomenal regular season under head coach Pete Wiggins, is without question one of the favorites in Class AA to win it all.

When it comes to what a team needs to win a state title, a stingy defense, explosive offense, solid special teams, exceptional coaching, Callaway checks every box.

For Troup (6-4 overall), the playoff road is a tough one.

After finishing fourth in Region 5-AAAA, Troup’s first-round opponent is that same Blessed Trinity team that has won back-to-back state titles.

Yet the Tigers under head coach Tanner Glisson believe they have what it takes to pull off the upset and make another state run, particularly after going toe-to-toe with the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes last week before losing 45-35.

This is what these teams have worked for.

This is what those early-morning weight-lifting sessions, the summer workouts, the grueling practices in early August have all been for.

It’s all about making it to the playoffs, and then hopefully hanging around for a while.

Any coach or player will tell you, there is nothing like playoff football, and for Callaway and Troup, that journey is here.

At Callaway, the word that comes to mind is consistency.

Pete Wiggins has been Callaway’s head coach since 2005, and his two right-hand men since then have been offensive coordinator Matt Napier and defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard.

It is rare, practically unheard of honestly, for a group of coaches to remain together this long, and there’s no question that consistency is a key reason why Callaway has been among the state’s most successful programs for a decade.

As for this team, good luck finding a weakness.

The Cavaliers, who average more than 40 points per game, have a balanced, dynamic offense capable of beating teams with the pass or the run.

Defensively, the Cavaliers haven’t yielded much of anything.

The Cavaliers ended the regular season with three consecutive shutouts, and seven times this season they’ve limited an opposing team to seven or fewer points.

This is a unit that only had two returning starters from a year ago, but under Hubbard’s direction it has developed into one of the best defenses in program history.

Leading the way is a coaching staff that has been there and done that plenty of times.

The Cavaliers have won at least one playoff game every year but once since 2008, and three times since 2013 they’ve advanced to the state semifinals.

Nothing’s going to happen this week and beyond that Wiggins and his fellow coaches won’t be prepared for.

Everything is set up for the Cavaliers to make a deep playoff run.

As for the Troup Tigers, they’re starting out with as tough as assignment as you can have.

Blessed Trinity has not only won the past two Class AAAA state titles, but it finished second in the state in 2016.

Blessed Trinity is the giant in Class AAAA right now, but don’t think for a second that Troup’s coaches and players won’t head to Roswell on Friday night fully believing they’re going to win the game.

The Tigers are only 6-4, but three of those losses (Cartersville, Sandy Creek and Callaway) are to teams with two losses between them, and the other setback was to a Cedartown team that is playing well, and that game was contested in a monsoon.

Troup is coming off an inspired effort last week against Cartersville.

The Tigers lost 45-35, but they made the Purple Hurricanes work for it.

As Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said following that game, there are no moral victories, but when you go toe-to-toe with a team that has won 58-straight regular-season games, you’re doing something right.

The Tigers ran for more than 300 yards against the Purple Hurricanes, with running back Trey Williams and quarterback Kobe Hudson accounting for 321 yards between them.

Hudson is a player Blessed Trinity knows well.

In last year’s semifinal game, Hudson passed for 234 yards and ran for 204 yards, and he accounted for five touchdowns.

Kobe is an electrifying player, and if he’s at his best he’ll give the Tigers a fighting chance.

Troup’s defense has turned a corner late in the season.

Following an off week where the coaches made some significant changes, the defense has been a steady unit.

Is this a daunting challenge for the Tigers?


Is Troup capable of stunning the champs and keeping the season alive?

Without a doubt.

It helps to have a head coach in Glisson who instills a belief in the players that they can accomplish anything.

Whatever happens this week and perhaps beyond, it has been a successful season for the Tigers and the Cavaliers, and they’ve put themselves in position to chase down a state championship, which is the ultimate goal.

This is a special time of year, and here’s hoping it’ll be a memorable playoff run for Troup and Callaway.