Offensive fireworks for Cavaliers
Published 2:01 pm Monday, November 25, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Play by play, and first down by first down, Fitzgerald methodically made its way down the field on the opening possession of Friday’s state-playoff showdown against the Callaway Cavaliers.
Fitzgerald, no doubt fully away of Callaway’s ability to score points quickly, burned off nearly nine minutes of clock time to begin the game.
All the while, Callaway’s offensive standouts, including quarterback Demetrius Coleman, running back Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby, and all of the talented wide receivers, paced on the sideline, waiting on their chance to show what they could do.
That first possession ended with a Fitzgerald touchdown with 3:23 left in the first quarter, giving the road team some early momentum in the second-round playoff game.
Finally, with most of the first quarter already gone, Callaway’s explosive offense made its way onto the field.
The Cavaliers made up for lost time.
Callaway waltzed down the field and covered nearly 70 yards in less than three minutes, with Charlie Dixon scoring on a 4-yard run.
The onslaught was on.
Callaway’s offense was unstoppable, scoring nearly every time it had the ball on the way to a 50-31 victory.
The Cavaliers had 10 possessions in the game, and they scored touchdowns on seven of them.
It was a relentless exhibition of offensive efficiency, with all of Callaway’s offensive weapons on display and offensive coordinator Matt Napier consistently dialing up the right plays.
When it was over, the Cavaliers (11-1 overall) were one step closer to the program’s first state championship.
If Callaway does end up winning it all, the dynamic offense will no doubt be a key reason why.
In last week’s game, Fitzgerald had no answer for Callaway’s high-powered passing attack.
Coleman, Callaway’s junior quarterback, was close to perfect.
Coleman completed 10-of-13 passes for 237 yards with touchdown passes to Jacob Freeman and Bigsby, and he also hooked up with Antinez Blount for a two-point conversion.
Freeman had a monster night with 3 catches for 116 yards, Blount had four receptions for 48 yards, and Jymere Jones had one catch for 18 yards.
Bigsby, running with a vengeance, wrecked the Fitzgerald defense for 151 rushing yards on 16 attempts with three touchdowns, and he also had a scoring catch on a momentum-turning play right before the half.
With time running down in the half, Coleman completed a short pass to Blount, who pitched the ball to Bigsby.
While the cornerback celebrated what he thought was a tackle for a short gain, Bigsby covered 60 yards in impressive fashion, running past, around, and through a host of Fitzgerald defenders.
When Bigsby scored and Blake Eubanks made the extra point, Callaway had a 21-10 lead, which was the score at the half.
Charlie Dixon, Callaway’s junior running back, complemented Bigsby by running for 68 yards on seven attempts with two touchdowns.
“The one-two punch with those two guys is pretty special,” Napier said.
Bigsby, the Auburn-bound running back who’ll play in the Under Armour All-American game in January, showed once again why he’s so highly-regarded.
Bigsby averaged 9.4 yards per carry, and many of his yards came after contact against an overmatched Fitzgerald defense.
“He played tonight with a different kind of edge,” Napier said. “He’s always been really good, but tonight, he was possessed. He wanted the team to win, and he was going to do anything he could to make sure that happened.”
Coleman, who has had a breakthrough junior season, was brilliant.
Coleman only threw three incomplete passes, and he averaged more than 23 yards per completion.
One of those completions went for a touchdown and covered 70 yards to Freeman in the second half, and Freeman also had another scoring catch negated because of a penalty.
Freeman added a 36-yard catch where he went up and high and snatched the ball away from a defender.
Blount also had a big day with three catches, and Jymere Jones had an 18-yard reception that continued a drive.
“It’s a special group (of receivers),” Napier said. “Demetrius has weapons all over the field.”
The Cavaliers began their first possession at their own 31-yard line, and it took them eight plays to cover 69 yards and score their first touchdown.
Bigsby had a 10-yard run on third down to keep the drive alive, and Blount had a 14-yard catch to put the ball in Fitzgerald territory.
Dixon finished things off with a 4-yard touchdown run, and Eubanks made the first of his six extra-point attempts to deadlock the score at 7-7.
After Fitzgerald kicked a field goal to reclaim the lead, Callaway needed six plays to go 59 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
Coleman had completions of 15 yards to Blount and eight yards to Freeman, and Bigsby capped the drive with a 15-yard scoring run.
The Cavaliers began their third and final possession of the first half at their own 34-yard line with 56 seconds left.
Napier dialed up a play the Cavaliers had been working on in practice, and it worked like a charm.
Coleman threw a strike to Blount, who tossed the ball behind him to Bigsby, and the senior running back did the rest, covering 60 yards in a remarkable display of ability and tenacity.
A handful of Fitzgerald players had a chance to bring Bigsby down, but none of them could bring him to the ground.
“That most definitely turned (momentum) going into halftime, putting points on the board,” Freeman said.
Bigsby, knowing how big a touchdown could be, saw the end zone, and nothing was going to stop him from getting there.
“I wasn’t going to give up,” Bigsby said. “I just had to keep going.”
The Cavaliers went three-and-out and punted on their first possession of the second half, but when they got the ball back, they went back to work, going 44 yards in three plays for a touchdown.
The Cavaliers covered 36 of those yards in one play, with Freeman going high in a one-on-one situation to make the catch.
Two plays later, Bigsby scored on a 6-yard run, and Callaway led 28-10.
After Fitzgerald scored to make it a 28-16 game, it took the Cavaliers one play to answer a touchdown of their own.
Coleman rolled to his right, turned, and threw to a wide-open Freeman down the field for a 70-yard touchdown.
“Before the play, I told Demetrius, I’ll be open,” Freeman said.
The Cavaliers went for two, and Coleman found Blount in the end zone to push the lead to 36-16.
Early in the fourth quarter, after a Jymere Jones interception, Bigsby scored on a 55-yard run, and Callaway’s lead was 43-16.
After Fitzgerald scored a touchdown and failed to recover an onside kick, Callaway put it away with a six-play, 50-yard scoring drive.
Dixon did the bulk of the damage.
Dixon had a 31-yard run to get things started, and he finished the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run, putting an exclamation mark on a memorable offensive performance.
The Cavaliers finished with nearly 500 yards, and it was almost a 50-50 split between passing and running.
While Fitzgerald’s offense had some success of its own, Callaway’s defense came up with some critical stops when it needed to.
“I was proud of our effort,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. “I was proud of our coaching staff, and how hard these guys work. These kids believe in what we do, and they’re just picking up their lunch pail and coming to work every day. It’s not easy. These guys, they believe in one another, and they believe in what we do, and I’m really proud of these kids.”