Callaway’s Coleman set for senior season
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
On a team that boasted one of the top running backs in the country, Callaway High quarterback Demetrius Coleman still managed to stand out.
The Cavaliers averaged more than 40 points per game and reached the semifinals of the state playoffs for a second straight year, and Coleman had a lot to do with that offensive proficiency.
Coleman threw for close to 3,000 yards with 32 touchdowns, and he spread the wealth to a handful of gifted wide receivers while also making plays with his legs.
As the Cavaliers prepare for a new season, Coleman is the undisputed leader of an offense that has some significant holes to fill.
Most notably, running back Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby has graduated and is now at Auburn, and Callaway’s four leading receivers are gone as well, including Jacob Freeman (Georgia State) and Antinez Blount (Valdosta), who are both on college rosters.
The good news for the Cavaliers is that Coleman, who has appeared in eight playoff games over the past two seasons, is returning, and head coach Pete Wiggins knows how critical his contributions will be to this team.
“We lost several leaders from our offense,” Wiggins said. “Demetrius will have a lot of weight on his shoulders as far as guys returning with experience. He’s played in a lot of big games against really good competition. He’s a guy that’s been there, and has seen a lot of ball, so he’s going to have to lead and guide our football team. He’ll have to lead with experience and being in big situations to help our receivers grow, and on our offensive linemen he’ll instill confidence in those guys.”
Coleman stepped into a starting role in the regular-season finale in 2018, and he helped Callaway win three playoff games before the championship run ended with a 28-22 loss to Rockmart in the state semifinals.
Callaway’s offense was unstoppable last season.
The Cavaliers scored 30 or more points in 12 of their 14 games, and they accumulated at least 35 points in all four of their playoff games.
In Callaway’s final game, a 39-35 loss to Brooks County in the semifinals, Coleman threw three touchdown passes.
“Along with his leadership, he has pure mental toughness to go along with a lot of great physical abilities,” Wiggins said. “He’s fast, he’s mobile, he’s got a big arm.”
Callaway’s past two seasons have ended in similar fashion.
Against Rockmart and Brooks County in the state semifinals, Callaway had the ball in the closing moments with an opportunity to win it with a touchdown, only to come up just short both times.
Fortunately for Coleman, he gets one final chance to wear the Callaway uniform and possible have a happier end to the season.
There was, though, some doubt during the summer about whether there would be a season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, it looks as though there will be a season, and Coleman is eager to get out on the field and compete with his teammates.
“When they had a discussion about us not playing, it made me realize how quick something can be taken from you, so I’m very excited they’re letting us play,” Coleman said.
Callaway, after playing preseason games against Harris County and Darlington, will open its regular season on Sept. 11 against Troup, and Wiggins is comforted in knowing that Coleman will be leading the way.
“At practice, he works hard, he demands out of his teammates,” Wiggins said. “He’s not a very vocal guy. He leads with work ethic, and by example, and he has great determination out on the field and certainly when we get to the games.”
Coleman will be throwing the ball to a different group of receivers this season.
Jacob Freeman, Jymere Jones, Antinez Blount and Markus Morman combined for nearly 100 catches last season, but they’ve all graduated.
The only receiver with any significant experience is Jalin Shephard, who caught eight balls for 202 yards last year.
While it’s an inexperienced group of receivers, Coleman believes in their ability.
“They keep getting better every day,” Coleman said. “They’ve got the potential. They just have to believe in themselves like I believe in them.”
Coleman remembers what it was like to be one of the young guys on the team, and he is striving to make sure to be a steadying influence for his teammates.
“It helps me work on my leadership skills, and communicate more, and to give them confidence like the older guys gave me when I was younger,” Coleman said.
One of those young players is freshman quarterback Deshun Coleman, Demetrius Coleman’s brother.
The two have been working side-by-side on the practice field, and Demetrius Coleman has no doubt about his younger brother’s ability.
“He can probably be better than me,” Demetrius Coleman said.
Coleman will have an experienced teammate to hand the ball off to in senior running back Charlie Dixon, who is expected to be the featured back this season after backing up Tank Bigsby last year.
Callaway also has some experienced men on the offensive line, including senior Austin Thomas.
As for Coleman, as accomplished a player as he already is, he has strived to keep getting better, and to make sure his senior season is his finest yet.
“I’ve worked a lot,” Coleman said. “I can read defenses better now. I’m using my feet more. I’m learning new plays.”
While Callaway figures to be a strong contender to compete for a state title, Coleman knows that what happened in previous years won’t impact what happens this fall.
“It’s a new year,” Coleman said. “We just take it one day at a time, and try to get better each and every day, and not focusing on last year.”
Coleman has a new offensive coordinator this season in Zach Giddens, who has taken over that role after Matt Napier left to become the head coach at LaGrane High.
Giddens has been able to work closely with Coleman throughout the summer since teams were given the go-ahead to resume face-to-face workouts following the coronavirus lockdown.
“He’s been wonderful to work with,” Giddens said. “Not only does he have quick feet, and he’s got a great arm and is athletic, but he’s a great kid, and his family is great, too.”