Cavaliers enjoy tradition of success
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
While the Callaway Cavaliers have yet to win the ultimate prize, a state championship, they’ve been one of Class AA’s most consistent teams for more than a decade.
Callaway, in fact, has won at least one state-playoff game for eight consecutive years, and 11 out of 12 seasons, a testament to the program’s stability under head coach Pete Wiggins.
Callaway made it eight first-round wins in a row with last week’s 54-7 blowout win over Chattooga, setting up this week’s second-round test with Fitzgerald.
The architect of the success is Wiggins, who is 136-46 since taking over the program in 2005.
Callaway began playing football in 1996, and while it enjoyed some successful years in the early going with coach Sonny Cummings leading the way, it came into the 2008 season still looking for its first playoff win.
Callaway came close a couple of times.
In 2001, Callaway went on the road and lost to a strong Cartersville team 21-18 in the first round.
Five years later, in Wiggins’ second season as head coach, Callaway lost to Washington-Wilkes 30-26 in the first round.
Finally, on a mid-November night in 2008, Callaway got that break-through state win.
After winning the Region 5-AA title, Callaway outlasted Greater Atlanta Christian 19-14 after making a goal-line stand in the closing moments.
Greater Atlanta Christian had the ball on the Callaway 1-yard line on second down, but it was unable to get into the end zone.
After a fourth-down stop, the Cavaliers ran a kneel-down play to run out the clock, securing that historic win.
Callaway lost to Pepperell 40-20 the following week, but the program was no doubt on the fast
In 2009 Callaway won its second playoff game, beating Riverside Military Academy 47-7 in the first round.
The following week Callaway made history once again by beating Westminster 35-31 in a thrilling game to reach the state quarterfinals for the first time ever.
Callaway’s playoff run, and a 10-game winning streak, ended with a 35-21 loss to Fitzgerald in the quarterfinals.
Although Callaway lost that game, Wiggins believes it was a critical moment for a program on the rise.
“The first time we played Fitzgerald was 10 years ago in 2009,” Wiggins said. “They had a great football team, they were well-coached, they were hard-nosed. And we had a great football team. We had a lot of really good players that had worked hard. I’ll never forget that game. I felt like that game really elevated our football team. We had played in some big games prior to that, but that was the first year that we moved on past the second round. It was a great football game, and they won, but as you look back on Callaway football, that was a critical piece in making our foundation better and establishing our tradition as a really good football team.”
In 2010, Callaway won a playoff game for the third consecutive season, thumping Rockmart 30-8 before losing to Buford 52-14 in the second round.
Callaway’s streak of winning playoff games was interrupted in 2011 when it lost to Westminster 34-15 in the first round.
Beginning in 2012, though, the Cavaliers have known nothing but success in the first round, and they’ve enjoyed a handful of extended playoff runs.
Callaway beat Tattnall County 49-7 in the first round in 2012 before losing to Washington County 28-0 in the second round.
The 2013 season was a milestone one for the Cavaliers, who won three playoff games in a season for the first time.
Callaway beat McDonough 62-28, Pierce County 49-21, and St. Pius X 35-21 before losing to Buford 24-14 in the semifinals.
Callaway led Buford at the half but was unable to finish off what would have been a massive road win over one of the state’s top powerhouses.
In 2014, Callaway beat Ringgold 35-7 in the first round before losing to Washington County 31-7 in the second round.
In 2015, Callaway beat Hart County 38-20 and took a 10-game winning streak into a second-round test against Westminster.
In a hard-fought game, Westminster beat Callaway 49-28 and went on to claim the state title.
Callaway made its second-ever trip to the state semifinals in 2016.
Callaway beat Model 55-20, Brooks County 28-14 and Screven County 35-34 to earn its spot in the semifinals.
In the Screven County game, Callaway went nearly the length of the field at the end of the game to win it, with Dylan Johnson throwing a 47-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Sanders on fourth down.
Callaway’s season ended with a 49-10 loss to Benedictine, which won the state title the following week.
In 2017, Callaway handled Douglass-Atlanta 28-8 in the first round before outlasting Rockmart 40-35 in the second round.
Callaway’s luck ran out when it lost to Brooks County 31-0 in the quarterfinals.
In 2018 the Cavaliers continued their run of playoff success, making it to the semifinals for the third time in six years.
Callaway beat Elbert County 27-14, defending state-champion Hapeville Charter 31-13, and Washington County 35-20 to reach the semifinals.
Callaway had its best opportunity to win a semifinal game and reach the championship round, but it lost to Rockmart 28-22.
With last week’s 54-7 win, the Cavaliers are 19-11 in the playoffs since 2008, and they’ve won nine playoff games since 2016.
Here’s a look at Callaway’s playoff record each year since 2008:
Round one – Beat Greater Atlanta Christian 19-14
Round two – Lost to Pepperell 40-20
Round one – Beat Riverside Military Academy 47-7
Round two – Beat Westminster 35-31
Round three – Lost to Fitzgerald 35-21
Round one – Beat Rockmart 30-8
Round two – Lost to Buford 52-14
Round one – Lost to Westminster 34-15
Round one – Beat Tattnall County 49-7
Round two – Lost to Washington County 28-0
Round one – Beat McDonough 62-28
Round two – Beat Pierce County 49-21
Round three – Beat St. Pius X 35-21
Round four – Lost to Buford 24-14
Round one – Beat Ringgold 35-7
Round two – Lost to Washington County 31-7
Round one – Beat Heart County 38-20
Round two – Lost to Westminster 49-28
Round one – Beat Model 55-20
Round two – Beat Brooks County 28-14
Round three – Beat Screvens County 35-34
Round four – Lost to Benedictine 49-10
Round one – Beat Douglass 28-8
Round two – Beat Rockmart 40-35
Round three – Lost to Brooks County 31-0
Round one – Beat Elbert County 27-14
Round two – Beat Hapeville Charter 31-13
Round three – Beat Washington County 35-20
Round four – Lost to Rockmart 28-22
Round one – Beat Chattooga 54-7