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Cavaliers return to work

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

Callaway head football coach Pete Wiggins was happy to be back with his football family.

Callaway High’s football players returned to campus on Monday for the start of summer conditioning in preparation for a season that will begin in a little more than two months.

The Cavaliers were in the midst of their offseason strength and conditioning program and were preparing for spring practice when everything was shut down in the middle of March because of the coronavirus.

For more than two months, high-school sports activities of any kind weren’t allowed in Troup County, and that obviously included football conditioning.

That changed this week, with high-school teams across the state permitted to get together once again following a decision by the Georgia High School Association a few weeks ago.

So on Monday, Wiggins and the other coaches welcomed the players back to campus. The Cavaliers are having to follow a handful of guidelines designed to minimize the health risk to the players and coaches.

Most notably, teams aren’t permitted to use footballs, groups can’t include more than 20 people including players and coaches, social distancing must be maintained, the players must have their temperature taken and answer a series of health-related questions.

While it’s hardly business as usual, Wiggins wasn’t complaining after getting a chance to spend time with a group of players who mean so much to him.

“You haven’t seen guys in three months that for the last three or four years you spent so much time with,” said Wiggins, who is heading into his 16th season as Callaway’s head coach. “They become part of your family, and I’ve missed them very much. To see them (Monday) for the first time was really special. I thought they worked hard. There was great energy. It was good to see our coaching staff back together. I thought it was a great day.”

For the next few weeks, it won’t be about the Xs and Os, rather the primary concern will be getting the players back into football shape after taking so much time off.

The players will be spending time in the weight room, while also working on agility and speed drills.

“It was obvious that they haven’t worked out in three months,” Wiggins said, reflecting on the first day of summer workouts. “We were moving slower than we’re accustomed to moving, but I thought the workouts were very positive. The energy level was high, the kids’ enthusiasm was high, and at this point that’s all I can ask for. I was really pleased with our workouts. I know the other coaches made great comments about the way the workouts were going, so I feel good about it.”

At some point teams will be cleared to begin using footballs and scrimmaging, but when that will happen has yet to be determined.

“Hopefully we can roll through the month of June and get better, and continue to monitor the players each day like we’re supposed to, and hopefully that’ll give us a greater opportunity to do more things in the month of July,” Wiggins said.

This has been an offseason unlike any other. The Cavaliers have a tightly structured calendar that includes the offseason conditioning program, spring practice, the summer program, preseason practice, and then the regular season and the playoffs.

That plan took a hit this year because of the coronavirus, but the Cavaliers will make the best of the situation.

“The coronavirus has been an exceptional amount of adversity, but we’ve just got to keep our heads up, and keep being positive, and we’ll get through this, and hopefully we’ll get back on the field soon,” Wiggins said.

Callaway is scheduled to play Harris County in a preseason game on Aug. 7, and it has another preseason game at Darlington on Aug. 14 before opening the regular season on Aug. 21 at home against Opelika.

The Cavaliers are coming off another phenomenal season with Wiggins at the helm.

Callaway went 12-2 last year, and it reached the state semifinals of the state playoffs before falling to Brooks County.

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

Wiggins has a career record of 138-47 since taking over the Callaway program in 2005.