Cavaliers adjust to summer schedule
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
In sports, how much success a team enjoys is oftentimes directly related to how well it overcomes the challenges and obstacles in its path.
In this era of the coronavirus which has changed so much in the world of sports, high-school football players and coaches are facing plenty of adversity and uncertainty as they prepare for a season that is supposed to begin in about two months.
Teams were in the midst of their offseason strength and conditioning programs and preparing for the start of spring practice when everything was shut down because of the coronavirus.
After a shutdown that lasted nearly three months, teams were given the go-ahead to begin summer conditioning on June 8, with plenty of restrictions.
One of those restrictions involved the number of people that could be included in a workout group. That number started out at 20 people, which included players and coaches, and for the first two weeks of workouts teams weren’t allowed to use footballs.
The Callaway Cavaliers, like every other team in the state, have had to adjust to the changes, and while it has no doubt been a challenge, head coach Pete Wiggins said he is “proud of how our coaches and our players have handled the situation.”
“I think we’ve gotten better,” Wiggins added. “I really like the format that we’ve established. I like the camaraderie that each group has built with each other, but also with their coaches. We spent a lot of time developing each group. We made a lot of changes to get to where we are. I feel like have had success. The effort, the competition between each group has been high, but within each group they’re pushing one another, and the coaches have done a great job just demanding out of each one of them.”
When the Georgia High School Association released the guidelines for the start of summer conditioning, Wiggins and his fellow coaches went to work to lay out a plan for the return of the players.
An extensive and detailed plan was created for the coaches to follow during the workout sessions, and great care also went into deciding what the groups would look like.
“We erased names, and we put them back up,” Wiggins said. “Later that night there’d be a change of opinion, and we’d move somebody. I feel like in the end, it’s been successful because of the preparation we put into each group, and putting the kids with the right coach. So I’m pleased with it, and for down the road when we get through this adversity with the coronavirus, we’re going to use similar strategies for the weight room from here on out.”
Wiggins has been Callaway’s head coach since 2005, and under his guidance the program has become a powerhouse.
The Cavaliers have been in the state playoffs for 14 consecutive seasons, and they’ve won at least one playoff game every year but once since 2008 while reaching the state semifinals four times since 2013.
A key to Callaway’s success no doubt stems from a summer program that has remained mostly the same, but it has clearly had to chance drastically this year.
“We miss the competition, the seven on sevens, the Mike Hodges offensive-line camp, the OTAs, and those things in the past have been the foundation of what I feel like has made us better,” Wiggins said. “We haven’t gotten to do that, but at this point everybody is on the same playing field. You look at the positives, and the small group setting, the coaches are getting better, the players are getting better, they’re getting more attention, and I think we find out a lot more about younger kids. So, I’m pleased with it.”
While Wiggins believes the smaller groups help the players, he also feels “the coaches have benefited from it.”
“Some of the coaches have been put in situations where they’re running the show,” Wiggins said. “They’re having more weight on their shoulder than the normal summer, because each group is their own group, it’s their own team. I think it’s been good for the kids, but for the coaches.”
Beginning on Monday, teams in Georgia can begin using footballs after not being permitted to use them the first two weeks.
Wiggins doesn’t expect the routine to be much different, though, in what will be Callaway’s final week of workouts before the GHSA-mandated “dead week” the week of July 4th.
“Obviously there’s some consideration with the email that the GHSA sent out (permitting the use of footballs), but we’re not going to change much,” Wiggins said. “We’re going to finish this next week up strong, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and where we are at this point. We’ll regroup over the break and get started.”
Callaway has preseason games against Harris County on Aug. 7 and Darlington on Aug. 14 before opening the regular season on Aug. 21 against Opelika.
The Cavaliers are coming off another ultra-successful season.
Callaway went 12-2 and reached the Class AA state semifinals before losing to Brooks County 39-35.