PREP FOOTBALL: Week two highlights
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Week two is in the books.
Throughout the spring and summer, that there would be a high-school football season was far from a certainty because of Covid-19 concerns.
The season began two weeks later than originally scheduled, but it did arrive, and the Callaway Cavaliers, LaGrange Grangers and Troup Tigers have all played at least one game.
Each week during the season I’ll be taking a look back at some of the most memorable moments and outstanding individual performances from the previous week’s games.
There were plenty of both during last week’s games, with Callaway getting past Troup 27-7, and LaGrange edging Northside-Columbus in a 35-28 overtime thriller.
GAME-CHANGING PLAY: On the surface, there wouldn’t seem to be much drama in a 20-point victory, but midway through the third quarter the outcome of the Callaway and Troup game was still very much in doubt.
Troup had just scored a touchdown on a scoring pass from freshman Taeo Todd to Navelle Dean, and Callaway’s lead was down to 14-7 with 5:47 left in the third quarter.
Callaway, in need of a momentum-turning play, got one from Osiris Rivas on the ensuing kickoff.
The kick went over the heads of the Callaway players, and Rivas chased the ball down and picked it up at the 10-yard line.
Rivas turned up field, eluded a handful of would-be tackle attempts, and raced 90 yards for the touchdown.
The Blake Eubanks extra point gave the Cavaliers a 21-7 lead, and they were in control the rest of the way.
“I thought it was going out of bounds. It didn’t so I went ahead and scooped it up,” Rivas said.
After getting into the clear, Rivas realized he had a path to the end zone.
“I thought, I can really take it,” Rivas said.
Charlie Dixon, Callaway’s outstanding senior running back, knows how dangerous Rivas is when he gets the ball in hishands.
“Osiris is a very phenomenal guy on kickoff returns,” Dixon said. “He’s always been like that.”
While the play helped the Cavaliers turn things around and go on to win, it was a tough blow for the Tigers as they looked to get back into the game.
“We kick it over his head by 10, 15 yards, and they didn’t really set up a return, and we don’t get him on the ground,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said.
FINDING HIS WAY: Freshman Taeo Todd is coming off the most productive game of his budding high-school career.
Todd, who won the Troup High quarterback job during the summer, made his debut against Harris County, and he passed for 130 yards and ran for 52 yards during the 28-14 loss.
Last week against Callaway, Todd was Troup’s top offensive play-maker in the 27-7 setback.
Todd was dynamic on the ground with eight carries for 108 yards, and he showed off his speed with a 70-yard run in the second half.
While Todd wasn’t quite as effective in the passing game, completing 5-of-15 passes for 60 yards, he did have his first touchdown pass.
In the third quarter on a fourth-down play, Todd rolled out and tossed a 4-yard scoring pass to Navelle Dean.
ALMOST 300: The LaGrange Grangers beat the Northside Patriots 35-28 for their first win of the season, and senior running back Kale Gibbs was a big reason why.
Gibbs had a monster night with 287 yards on 24 attempts with two touchdowns, and he has 423 yards in two games while averaging better than 10 yards per carry.
In the Northside game, Gibbs set the tone for the night when he ripped off a 30-yard run on LaGrange’s first play from scrimmage, and that drive ended with a Caleb Ross touchdown run.
Gibbs continued to chew up big chunks of yardage the rest of the game, and he had a 57-yard scoring run early in the third quarter.
It’s early, but Gibbs is on pace to run for more than 2,000 yards in the regular season.
DOUBLE-DIGIT TACKLERS: The Callaway Cavaliers and LaGrange Grangers each had players reach double digits in tackles last week.
For Callaway, senior linebacker Austin Thomas had 11 tackles, including three for loss, during the 27-7 win over Troup.
Thomas has been a versatile player for the Cavaliers over the years.
Thomas began the 2019 season as a starting offensive lineman before moving to defense to fill a need on that side of the ball.
Thomas has remained at linebacker, and he has become one of Callaway’s most consistent defensive players.
“He’s such a good athlete,” Callaway defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard said of Thomas. “He’s about 190 pounds, and he’s a legitimate 4.6, high 4.5 runner (in the 40-yard dash), and he just does such a good job of tackling in space. He makes all the guys on our defense, so he’s a huge value to what we’re doing.”
LaGrange also had a player reach double digits in tackles.
Isaiah Jordan, a junior linebacker, had 11 tackles to help LaGrange outlast Northside-Columbus 35-28 in overtime.
MAKING A SPLASH: LaGrange junior Kobe Jones, who is playing high-schooll football for the first time, made a massive impact in last week’s 35-28 win over Northside-Columbus.
Jones not only had a 55-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter, but his interception in overtime clinched the victory for the Grangers.
Jones’ touchdown reception, combined with the Michah Prophett extra point, gave LaGrange a 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
While it may have looked at that point as though the Grangers were going to win going away, it didn’t work out that way.
Northside rallied to tie it at 28-28, but LaGrange scored a touchdown and made a defensive stop in overtime to win it.
On fourth down on Northside’s overtime possession, Jones made an interception to end the suspense and help LaGrange avoid what would have been a painful loss.
“We just had to keep fighting through it,” Jones said. “When you’re tired, just keep going.”
PAVING THE WAY: LaGrange had more than 500 yards of offense last week against Northside-Columbus, and that would not have happened without the effort of the offensive linemen.
LaGrange’s offensive linemen are Quay Thornton, Brandon Wortham, Jackson Dennis, Thad Dixon, K.T. Owens, Ka’Various Perry, Elijah Quimbayo, Towson Partin, and tight end Parker Shattuck.
Those players helped the Grangers run for 368 yards, with Kale Gibbs accounting for 287 of those yards.
The offensive linemen are no doubt benefiting from the guidance of their position coach, David Pleasants, who has decades of experience.
“Coach Pleasants has done a great job with those guys,” said LaGrange head coach Matt Napier. “I’ve ben pleased. Those guys have really bought into everything that we’ve been doing. They’re committed to doing what it takes to be successful. That’s good to see. They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and they’re going to get better.”
SECONDARY SUCCESS: The secondary figured to be a strength of the Troup defense, and that has indeed been the case so far, with seniors Sirr Morgan and Jace Godwin leading the way.
Morgan and Godwin, who are multi-year starters, were Troup’s leading tacklers in last week’s 27-7 loss to Callaway.
Godwin led the Tigers with eight tackles with a forced fumble, and Morgan added seven tackles.
The previous week against Hardaway, Godwin was also tops on the team with nine tackles, and three of them were for loss.
SPLITTING THE UPRIGHTS: The place kickers for Callaway, LaGrange and Troup combined to make 9-of-10 extra-point attempts during last week’s game.
For LaGrange, Micah Prophett was 5-of-5 on extra-point attempts, and those points were especially important since the game went to overtime.
Had Prophett missed any of the extra-point tries in regulation, Northside would have won.
For Callaway, Blake Eubanks made his first three extra points before his final attempt missed to the right, and Troup’s Cody Bray made his lone extra-point attempt.
HISTORIC WIN: After spending 15 seasons as Callaway’s offensive coordinator, Matt Napier made the move to LaGrange High to take over the football program.
After LaGrange fell short in week one against Upson-Lee, it beat Northside-Columbus 35-28 last week in overtime.
That was not only a breakthrough victory for the Grangers, but it was the first win for Matt Napier as a head coach.
Following the game, Napier was presented with a football inscribed with the words “coach Matt Napier first career win.”
Napier’s father, Bill Napier, had a 94-78 during his 11 seasons as Murray County’s head coach.
FAST START: Charlie Dixon has taken over as Callaway’s featured running back following the departure of Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby, and he got his 2020 season off to a successful start.
In last week’s 27-7 win over Troup, Dixon ran for 113 yards on 23 attempts with two touchdowns.
Dixon had a 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and he added a 30-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter to put the Cavaliers on top 27-7.
SOPHOMORE STANDOUTS: Two of Troup’s key offensive play-makers in last week’s 27-7 loss to Callaway were sophomore running back AJ Tucker and sophomore wide receiver Navelle Dean.
With Navontae Moss unavailable for the Callaway game, Tucker was Troup’s number two option at running back behind Anthony Ferguson.
While Ferguson was held in check with 27 yards on 20 attempts, Tucker was effective with 48 yards on seven carries.
Dean, meanwhile, was Troup’s leading receiver with four catches for 40 yards, and he had a touchdown catch from Taeo Todd in the third quarter.
In two games, Dean has five receptions for 52 yards, and he has caught nearly half of Todd’s 12 completions.
TWO MORE TDS: LaGrange sophomore quarterback Jaylan Brown has thrown two touchdown passes in each of his first two games as a starter.
In the season opener against Upson-Lee, Brown threw touchdown passes to Magic Johnson and AJ Traylor.
Brown had two more touchdowns against Northside-Columbus, and Kobe Jones and Traylor were on the receiving end of those passes.
The 15-yard touchdown pass to Traylor came in overtime and gave LaGrange the go-ahead points in the 35-28 win.
Brown also continues to make plays on the ground, and he had 38 yards on six carries against Northside after running for 33 yards on five attempts against Harris County.
As good as Brown has been, head coach Matt Napier believes the best is yet to come for the first-year starter.
“He has not played his best game yet,” Napier said. “I think he’ll really grow into the position and only see improvement. I was definitely proud of him. And he’s done a good job of taking care of the ball, too. That’s a big thing for a young guy to be able to hang onto it and take care of it. For a quarterback position, you rank that as high as anything.”
DOING THE JOB: Coming into last week’s game against Troup, a focus of Callaway’s defense was on slowing down running back Anthony Ferguson, who ran for more than 2,000 yards in the season opener against Harris County.
Callaway carried off tha aspect game plan to perfection in the 27-7 win, with Ferguson managing just 27 yards on 20 attempts.
“We wanted to bottle him up, and try to put them in situations where I felt like they had to throw the ball,” said Dusty Hubbard, Callaway’s defensive coordinator. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
While linebackers Austin Thomas, LaQuize Gilbert and Ladarrious Williams were the leading tacklers, defensive linemen Chauncey Bradford, Keshawn Suggs, Trey Stephens and Alan Shuman helped control things up front.