Season finally arrives for Cavaliers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
While most high-school football teams in Georgia started their seasons last week, the Callaway Cavaliers had to wait on the sidelines.
Callaway was supposed to open against Opelika, but the game was canceled when the Georgia High School Association decided to postpone the start of the season by two weeks.
The wait is finally over, though, with Callaway ready to get things started with a showdown against the rival Troup Tigers on Friday at 8 p.m.
“To finally get to the field, I’m proud for these young men,” said Pete Wiggins, who is in his 16th season as Callaway’s head coach. “They’re excited, and they’re grateful for the opportunity. They’ve worked hard, not only this summer, but for a long, long time. To get to their senior year, or their junior year, and to get the opportunity to finally get on the field against another team after some hard times is really special.”
It has been an unusual spring and summer for the Cavaliers, and every other football team in the state, because of Covid-19.
Spring practice was canceled, and what teams were permitted to do during the summer was extremely limited, and there has been some question as to whether there would even be a season.
The players and coaches kept showing up for work, though, and now for the first time since last year’s loss to Brooks County in the state semifinals, Callaway will get an opportunity to face off against another team.
“They’ve worked for a long time on the field, in the weight room,” Wiggins said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve went against an opponent, and not getting to do seven-on-sevens, and OTAs, and the spring game, and scrimmages, has been a lot different. Our guys are ready to be on the field against an opposing team. I’m excited for our 16 seniors. These guys have worked hard to get to where they’re at to this point. They’ve done a great job of leading our team, and we’re looking forward to seeing how they develop each week, and we’re looking forward to seeing the identity of our football team as the season goes on.”
Callaway’s program has thrived under the leadership of Wiggins, and the 2019 season was another exceptional one.
Callaway dropped its season opener to Opelika, and it didn’t lose again the Class AA state semifinals against Brooks County.
The Cavaliers went 12-2 while reaching the state semifinals for the fourth time since 2013, and they won their seventh region title since 2008.
The Cavaliers head into a new season with typically high expectations.
A Callaway defense that was so strong a year ago returns nearly every starter, and senior quarterback Demetrius Coleman and senior Charlie Dixon return to lead the offense.
Those players will try to help Callaway kick off the season with a big win over a county rival.
Callaway and Troup have played 10 times since 2008, and each team has won five times.
Last year, Callaway outscored Troup 56-45 in an epic, back-and-forthg ame, with Coleman throwing two scoring passes while also running one into the end zone.
Dixon, who filled in admirably for the injured Tank Bigsby, had two touchdown runs of his own.
Wiggins, who has been on the sideline for all 10 previous games between Callaway and Troup, is anticipating another competitive game this year.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought, physical game, just like always,” Wiggins said. “Troup has a great football team. Coach (Tanner) Glisson does a great job with his kids. They’re well-coached. They play hard. We’ve got to be ready. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will probably win the ballgame. We have to go out and execute, and play fast, and hopefully good things will happen.”
Whether the Cavaliers were playing one of their biggest rivals or not, Wiggins is just grateful to get a chance to play.
“There’s been an incredible amount of adversity that not only Callaway, but every team in the state and the country has faced,” Wiggins said. “To keep working, to keep grinding every day is very special, and to keep the spirit of the game is really special. Just to see the dedication from our coaches and our players, toward our team, to get better each day, is very special. I’m proud for the opportunity to finally get to the field on Friday night.”
CALLAWAY vs. TROUP
WHEN: Friday, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium
RECORDS: Troup (0-1); Callaway (0-0)
LAST MEETING: Callaway won 56-45 last year
ALL-TIME SERIES: Callaway and Troup have each won five games