Defense powers Callaway past Hardaway
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Callaway Cavaliers got a pair of scoring plays from their offensive stars, and an overpowering defense did the rest during a 17-6 victory over the Hardaway Hawks on Friday night at Callaway Stadium.
Senior running back Charlie Dixon had a 9-yard scoring run early in the game to get the Cavaliers on the board, and after a Blake Eubanks 35-yard field goal, Jalin Shephard electrified the home fans when he turned a short completion from Demetrius Coleman into an 85-yard touchdown.
Callaway did all of its scoring in the first half to build a 17-0 lead, and that was enough thanks to a lock-down defense that has given up 13 points in its first two games against Troup and Hardaway.
“It’s the kind of game we expected,” said Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins. “They’re a AAAA school, they’ve got a lot of good players, and they were coming off a big win. So, it was a hard-fought, physical football game, and I was just proud of our kids for continuing to fight throughout the night and pulling out the victory.”
Senior linebacker LaQuize Gilbert, a part of Callaway’s dominant defense, said the idea was to set the tone from the get-go.
“We had to establish that we were more physical than them,” Gilbert said. “We like to be the more physical team. We like to hammer them, lay the hits on them.”
The defense did indeed make its presence felt from the start.
Callaway picked up a first down on its opening possession before punting, and Hardaway took over at its own 11-yard line.
The Hawks went nowhere, and when the punter had trouble hanging onto the ball, he took off running and was tackled inside the 10-yard line, giving the ball to the Cavaliers.
On the next play, Dixon took a handoff from Coleman, and he shrugged off one tackle attempt and raced into the end zone for the 9-yard touchdown.
Eubanks made the first of his two extra points, and Callaway led 7-0 with 6:51 left in the first quarter.
Callaway’s defense went back to work and forced another punt, and the offense took over at midfield.
The Cavaliers made it inside the Hawks’ 20-yard line before the drive stalled, and Eubanks nailed the 35-yard field goal to push the lead to 10-0 with 19 seconds to play in the opening quarter.
In the second quarter, Callaway was facing a third-and-five situation from its own 13-yard line when Shephard provided some fireworks.
Coleman dropped pass and threw a strike to Shephard at the 20-yard line, and the senior speedster did the rest, outracing the Hardaway defense for the 87-yard touchdown, and the Eubanks extra point made it a 17-0 game with 4:22 left in the first half.
That’s the way it remained until Hardaway finally put some points on the board moments into the fourth quarter, with quarterback DJ Lucas scoring on a 5-yard run, and the extra-point attempt was unsuccessful.
The Hawks didn’t come close to scoring again, and the Cavaliers walked away with the win.
Callaway’s offense struggled to get much going in the second half, and it didn’t help that Dixon was on the sideline with a toe injury, but Wiggins was pleased with the way some other running backs came in and carried the ball.
“Charlie got hurt early, and that was a big loss, but I’m proud of some guys that came in, LaQuize Gilbert, Jordan King, Amarrion Truitt,” Wiggins said. “Those three guys all ran the ball hard, and I was proud of them for their effort throughout the game.”
In the end, as has been so often the case over the years, when the final whistle blew it was the Cavaliers celebrating a victory.
Callaway will be on the road against Douglass-Atlanta next Friday.
“It’s a big win against a AAAA school, and we’ll take it every time and we’ll get back to work next week,” Wiggins said.
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