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Cavaliers set for challenging schedule

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

While most teams in the state will open a new season in two weeks, the Callaway Cavaliers will have to wait a little longer to get things started.

Callaway was supposed to begin the regular season against Opelika, but that game was canceled when the Georgia High School Association decided to push everything back two weeks.

Callaway’s season opener will now be against Troup on Sept. 11, and there are only eight games on the regular-season schedule instead of the usual 10.

The Cavaliers aren’t complaining, though.

Over the past few months there has been doubt about whether the season would be played or not, and now it looks like the season will go on.

On Wednesday, an announcement by the GHSA affirmed that everything is a go for Sept. 4.

Callaway will open its season with a bang against the rival Troup Tigers in what will be the 11th meeting between the two programs.

Callaway beat Troup 55-45 in a high-scoring thriller last season, and the two programs have each won five games since they started playing in 2008.

“It’ll be high emotions in that game, and it’ll be physical, and it’ll come down to the wire just like many of the other ones did,” said Pete Wiggins, Callaway’s head coach since 2005.

That game will be a part of a challenging non-region schedule for Callaway, which also plays Hardaway, Douglass-Atlanta and Thomas County Central before opening Region 5-AA play on Oct. 9 against Haralson County.

Of Callaway’s eight regular-season opponents, seven of them qualified for the state playoffs last year, including all of its region foes.

Callaway ends the season against Heard County in a game that for the past four years has determined the region champion.

“Hardaway, Douglass and Thomas County Central are all tough opponents. They’re all in higher classifications than we are,” Wiggins said. “We feel like those teams should prepare us for our region, and in our region, we’ll face some great challenges in Heard County, and Bremen, and Haralson County and Temple. We feel like our schedule is difficult, but it’s one that we embrace.”

Callaway, like every other team, has had to adjust to an offseason that has offered its share of challenges.

A carefully-constructed offseason plan had to be scrapped because of Covid-19, putting the Cavaliers well behind where they’d usually be late in the summer.

“The equalizer is that everybody is on the same page,” Wiggins said.

Expectations are high for the Cavaliers, who are coming off another spectacular season with Wiggins at the helm.

Callaway went 12-2 in 2019 while reaching the state semifinals for the second straight year and for the fourth time since 2013, and its season came to a close with a heart-breaking 39-35 loss to Brooks County.

While there are some significant holes to fill because of graduation, the Cavaliers have plenty of players returning, including nearly every starter on a defense that thrived last year.

Last year this time the defense was a question mark because of the loss of so many starters, so it’s a drastically different scenario this year.

“We have 10 guys that have actually started at one time on defense, so the scenario has flipped from last year to this year,” Wiggins said.

It’s a different story on offense with the loss of some incredibly productive players, including the four leading receivers, two offensive linemen, and all-state running back Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby.

Fortunately for the Cavaliers, they have senior quarterback Demetrius Coleman back for his third year as a starter, and senior running back Charlie Dixon also returns.

Leading the offense is offensive coordinator Zach Giddens, who took over that position when Matt Napier left to become the head coach at LaGrange.

“Coach Giddens is bringing a lot of energy right now,” Wiggins said. “He’s so excited to get to the next practice, or get to the field each day.”

With the first game still three weeks away, Wiggins and the other coaches will continue to keep an eye on things in practice and try to have everything in place when the season gets underway.

“Right now, we’re a lot different than we were last year, but each year it changes,” Wiggins said. “We have to find what’s our forte, what do we hang our hat on, and that’ll take time. It’ll take time to get players in the right position, and find the right fit for each of our guys, and let guys work to win a spot, and as practices go by and as we play games, we’ll find that. We’ll find different leadership. All that’ll take time, and I’m looking forward to that process.”