Linebacker provides lift for Callaway defense
Published 10:22 pm Thursday, November 21, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
For a good chunk of the season, the Callaway Cavaliers had to get by without one of their top defensive play-makers, senior linebacker R.J. Williams.
Williams missed a handful of games with an injury, and while the Cavaliers carried on fine without him and continued to win games, the defense has no doubt received a lift with his return.
Williams, Callaway’s leading returning tackler this season, will be at his customary linebacker position when Callaway hosts Fitzgerald in the second round of the Class AA state playoffs.
In last week’s 54-7 win over Chattooga in the first round of the playoffs, Williams led Callaway with eight tackles.
“He’s not 100 percent,” said Dusty Hubbard, Callaway’s defensive coordinator. “You fracture your elbow and only miss three games. That’s pretty tough to do. He’s getting closer. I think now you can watch him in practice and he’s much more apt to stick his shoulder in there. He wasn’t really wrapping up when he first got back. He’s starting to do that again.”
Even if Williams isn’t at full strength, Hubbard said having him on the field still adds tremendous value.
“It’s him just knowing the defense, and being able to kind of be a guy that can talk to me when they come off the field and tell me what’s going on,” Hubbard said. “That’s the stuff that we didn’t have, and we’ve got that back.”
Williams is a critical part of a defense that has given up just 99 points in 11 games, and nearly half of that total came in a 56-45 victory over Troup.
RUNNING STRONG: The Callaway Cavaliers feature an explosive passing attack, with quarterback Demetrius Coleman leading the way.
While the Cavaliers will continue to rely on the passing game as the playoffs go along, star running back Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby will no doubt continue to get his hands on the football.
Bigsby is, after all, one of the state’s elite running backs, and he is at 100 percent after missing some time with an ankle injury earlier in the season.
As Bigsby showed last week against Chattooga, he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
Bigsby had a 51-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, and he added a 60-yard scoring run later in the first half.
Despite missing significant time with the injury, while also sitting out the regular-season finale against Jordan, Bigsby has eclipsed 1,000 yards for the season.
For Bigsby, coming up big in the playoffs is nothing new.
A year ago, Bigsby ran for 778 yards in four playoff games, and he had more than 2,000 yards for the season.
Bigsby was the focal point of the offense last season, and while he’s still someone opposing defenses will keep a close eye on, the Cavaliers have taken off offensively thanks to the dynamic passing attack.
Coleman has thrown for more than 2,000 yards in 11 games, and he has 28 touchdowns after throwing six scoring passes (all in the first half) against Chattooga.
Jacob Freeman had three touchdown catches against Chattooga, Antinez Blount had two, and Jalin Shephard had one.
Jymere Jones and Markus Morman have also been popular targets for Coleman this season.
The Cavaliers are averaging 42 points per game, and a lot of their scoring has come in the first half of blowout games.
LOOK AHEAD: If Callaway is able to beat Fitzgerald, it will be at home again for the state quarterfinals next week.
The Georgia High School Association had a universal coin toss on Thursday, and it came up tails.
That means that, if there are two teams that are the same seed, the team on the lower side of the bracket will be at home next week.
That’s good news for Callaway, which is on the bottom side of its bracket.
If Callaway gets past Fitzgerald, it will host either Douglass-Atlanta or Jefferson County next week.
Whether Callaway would host a semifinal game or have to go on the road has yet to be determined.
The championship games in all seven classifications will be held at Georgia State Stadium in Atlanta.
DOUBLE DIGITS AGAIN: Reaching double digits in wins is a huge accomplishment for a high-school football team, and that’s a milestone Callaway has reached often over the years.
The Cavaliers, in fact, have won 10 or more games in nine of the past 12 seasons, a testament to the consistency of the program.
The Cavaliers have won at least 10 games for five consecutive seasons now, and they have a 55-9 record over that stretch.
The Cavaliers won a program-high 13 games in 2016, and they’ll reach 14 wins if they win a state championship.
NOT A BAD LOSS: Callaway has one loss this season, and it came in the season opener against Opelika.
In a game where yards and points were at a premium, Opelika outlasted Callaway 10-7.
Both of those teams have gone on to enjoy sensational seasons.
Opelika (10-1) has only lost once this season, falling to Central-Phenix City in September, and it will play Hueytown in the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals on Friday.
Callaway (10-1) has strung together 10 straight wins since the Opelika loss.