Callaway opens with win over Troup
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Callaway Cavaliers are one of the favorites to win a state championship in large part because of the presence of so many men capable of making game-changing plays.
Those play-makers were on full display in Friday’s cross-town showdown against the Troup Tigers.
Running back Charlie Dixon had a big night with a pair of scoring runs, Demetrius Coleman tossed a touchdown pass to Jalin Shephard, and Osiris Rivas returned a kickoff for a score as Callaway began its season with a 28-7 win over Troup.
Pete Wiggins, who is in his 16th season as Callaway’s head coach, was pleased to see his players get an opportunity to compete after a summer filled with plenty of uncertainty.
“I’m really happy for our seniors,” Wiggins said. “They’ve worked so hard, and with the adversity these guys have been through throughout the summer and the whole year dealing with the coronavirus and cancelling scrimmages and canceling games and different things, to finally get out here and have the opportunity to play a cross-town rival was really special.”
While it was the season opener for Callaway, it was the second game for Troup, which kicked things off with a 28-14 loss to Harris County.
The Tigers got within seven on a touchdown pass from Taeo Todd to Navelle Dean midway through the third quarter, but the Cavaliers answered right back with a kickoff return for a score by Rivas.
Callaway capped the scoring on a Dixon touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and Troup was unable to answer.
Troup is off next week, and it begins Region 2-AAAA play on Sept. 25 against Hardaway.
“We’re going to figure out who we are,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “We’re going to figure out what we’re made of.”
For Callaway, Dixon delivered a strong effort as he takes over as the primary running back following the departure of Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby, who is now at Auburn.
Dixon had a 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put Callaway on the scoreboard, and his 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter capped the scoring.
Dixon, like all of his teammates, was thrilled to be back on a football field facing another team for the first time since last year’s state semifinal loss to Brooks County.
“It means a lot. It means the world to me,” Dixon said. “Football is my life. I eat, sleep, and live football. Every day you wake up and you know you get to play another down. It’s the best part about it.”
Callaway’s second touchdown came in the second quarter, with Shephard going up high to beat his defender and make an 18-yard scoring catch from Coleman, and the Blake Eubanks extra point gave Callaway a 14-0 lead.
After Troup got within seven in the third quarter and appeared to have some momentum, Rivas came through with arguably the most impactful play of the game.
The kickoff went over the head of Rivas, and he chased the ball down and picked it up at the 10-yard line, and he turned around and found some open field and raced all the way for the touchdown.
“I thought it was going out of bounds,” Rivas said. “It didn’t so I went ahead and scooped it up, and I thought, I can really take it (to the end zone).”
For Troup, the play was part of a difficult night on special teams that also included a fumbled punt return.
“It’s very disheartening,” Glisson said. “We’ve got a freshman (Taeo Todd) that played his tail off, and our juniors and seniors on special teams are not making plays. You have to make plays, and we’re not.”
Early on, the defenses for both teams were in control, and there was no score after the first quarter.
Callaway finally broke through in the second quarter, with Dixon taking the handoff from Coleman and beating the Troup defense for a 14-yard touchdown.
Blake Eubanks made the first of his three extra points, and Callaway led 7-0 with 9:06 left in the first half.
Callaway extended its lead to 14-0 later in the second quarter, with Shephard coming down with a pass from Coleman in the end zone for the 18-yard touchdown.
The Tigers got into Cavaliers’ territory on their ensuing possession, with Todd hooking up with Dwartney Wortham for a 30-yard completion, but the clock hit zero after one more play, and it was a 14-0 game at the half.
Troup got a break in the third quarter.
After a three-and-out by Callaway’s offense, Shephard couldn’t handle the snap on the punt attempt and he fell on the ball, and Troup took over at the 10-yard line.
On fourth down, Todd’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Dean and the extra point by Cody Bray cut Callaway’s lead to 14-7 with 5:47 to play in the third quarter.
Moments later, Rivas put momentum right back in Callaway’s corner with his extraordinary kickoff return.
“Osiris is a very phenomenal guy on kickoff returns,” Dixon said. “He’s always been like that.”
Late in the third quarter, the Cavaliers thought they’d scored again on a 45-yard touchdown run by Dixon, but the play was disallowed because of a penalty.
Later on that same possession, Dixon scored anyway, this time on a 30-yard run, and Callaway led 27-7 with 7:04 to play.
The Tigers threatened to cut into the deficit when Todd took off on a 70-yard run, setting the ball up on the Cavaliers’ 7-yard line.
The Tigers got to the 1-yard line before a fourth-down play failed, and the Cavaliers were able to run out the clock.
“I’m proud for these guys. I’m proud of their effort, and the fight they had throughout the night,” Wiggins said. “We had some tough situations with some cramps and a couple of injuries, and for our guys to keep battling and execute our offense and defense, it was a special win for our ball team.”