Happy Thanksgiving for Callaway

Published 1:52 am Friday, November 29, 2019


Daily News

They were happy to be working on Thanksgiving.

The Callaway Cavaliers, after last week’s impressive 50-31 victory over Fitzgerald, are in the state quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive season, and they’ll host the Douglass-Atlanta Astros in the Class AA quarterfinals on Friday.

That win also meant that the Cavaliers would be playing on Thanksgiving week, something they’ve done with regularity over the years.

In what has become a Thanksgiving tradition for the Cavaliers, after they’re done with their early-morning practice, the players, coaches and trainers head to the cafeteria to be treated to a meal, which this year consisted of pork chops and sides, and cinnamon rolls for desert.

Pete Wiggins, Callaway’s head coach since 2005, savors the opportunity to spend time with his football family.

“It’s very special to get up early on Thanksgiving morning to bring a bunch of daddies up here at 5:30, 6 a.m. and start cooking for the team,” Wiggins said. “To be able to practice, and then go fellowship with the kids and have a good meal is very special. I think that’s a very significant part of Callaway football. I think it’s part of what makes us a great family. To be able to sit and each together, and spend time off the field, it’s an instrumental part of the family atmosphere, and I think we have that.”

Before the meal, the Cavaliers had their final practice of the week as they look to continue what has been another phenomenal season with Wiggins at the helm.

Callaway (11-1) has won 11 consecutive games since a season-opening loss to Opelika, and it has scored a combined 104 points in playoff wins over Chattooga and Fitzgerald.

Leading the way are a group of seniors who have known nothing but success during their time at Callaway.

Over the past four seasons the Cavaliers are 46-7, and they’re 10-3 in the playoffs since the start of the 2016 season.

“I remember when this group of seniors was in the eighth grade,” Wiggins said. “A lot of them were ball boys. They’ve been very dedicated throughout their high-school career. They’ve always worked hard in the weight room, and on the field.”

If Callaway beats Douglass-Atlanta, it will advance to the state semifinals for the fourth time since 2013, and for the third time in four years.

“These guys just get better every week,” Wiggins said. “I think they have great expectations of themselves. Each Friday night, they expect to win, and ultimately keep advancing.”

Callaway began the season with a hard-fought 10-7 loss against an Opelika team that is in the Class AAAAAA semifinals in Alabama.

Since that loss the Cavaliers have been rolling.

There have been a handful of competitive games, but mostly the Cavaliers have been annihilating the competition, with most of the games decided by halftime.

In the playoff opener against Chattooga, Callaway led 47-0 at the half on the way to a 54-7 victory.

In last week’s second-round game, Fitzgerald hung around for a while, but Callaway rolled to a 50-31 victory.

Callaway’s dynamic offense is averaging more than 40 points per game, with Demetrius Coleman throwing for 2,388 yards and 29 touchdowns in 12 games.

Jacob Freeman, Antinez Blount, Jymere Jones, Markus Morman and Jalin Shephard have combined for 90 catches and 27 touchdowns.

Callaway also has one of the state’s top running backs in Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby, who has 1,1195 yards on 97 carries with 21 touchdowns.

Charlie Dixon has been a big-play threat at running back as well, and he played a particularly valuable role earlier in the season while Bigsby was recovering from an ankle injury.

Leading the way is an offensive line that has been outstanding.

It’s a group that includes Lathan Patterson, Austin Thomas, Zach Neighbors, Jacob Miles, Tate Johnson, Jared Nation, Christian Moon and Kamez Hopson.

Callaway’s defense has been solid throughout the season as well.

Before giving up 31 points last week, Callaway’s defense hadn’t allowed more than seven points in five straight games, and that included three shutouts.

The Cavaliers are strong up front with Anthony Elliott, Sam Williams, Jabari Smith and Tra Stephens leading the way, and linebackers R.J. Williams, Austin Thomas, Ladarius Williams and LaQuize Gilbert have been racking up the tackles.

In the secondary, Jalin Shephard, Osiris Rivas and Jymere Jones have been exceptional, and those players are battle-tested going against the gifted wide receivers in practice every day.

Callaway has been getting it done in special teams as well.

Blake Eubanks has been automatic on extra points of late, and he’s done a nice job on kickoffs as well.

In the return game, Jacob Freeman has a handful of touchdowns.

Standing in Callaway’s way is a Douglass-Atlanta team that has enjoyed a stellar season.

Douglass (11-1) finished second in Region 6-AA to powerhouse Hapeville-Charter, and it has won two playoff games to reach this point.

Last week, Douglass beat Jefferson County 12-8 to advance.

The Astros are primarily a running team, with three players combining for nearly 3,000 rushing yards.

In the regular season, sophomore Quintavious Lockett ran for 1,489 yards on 141 carries with 23 touchdowns, and quarterbacks DeAndre Watson and Quandarius Sterling each have more than 500 rushing yards.

Watson and Sterling, who share time at quarterback, are also capable of making big plays in the passing game, and they combined for 12 touchdown passes in the regular season.

Defensively, Douglass has been stout all season, allowing just 16 points per game.

“I think that coach (Rodney) Cofield has established a great tradition,” Wiggins said. “They play very physical. They believe in one another, and they believe in him. They have a very solid football team. They had a big win against a really good Jefferson County team. They’re 11-1, so they’re going to bring a great football team to Callaway Stadium Friday night.”



WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Callaway Stadium

WHAT: Quarterfinals of Class AA state playoffs

RECORDS: Callaway (11-1); Douglass-Atlanta (11-1)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Callaway won Region 5-AA and beat Chattooga and Fitzgerald in the state playoffs; Douglass-Atlanta finished second in Region 6-AA and beat Elbert County and Jefferson County in the state playoffs

LAST MEETING: Callaway beat Douglass 28-8 in the first round of the 2017 state playoffs