All about winning at Callaway
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The names on the roster change, but the expectations remain the same.
Under head coach Pete Wiggins, the Callaway Cavaliers have been one of the state’s most consistently successful programs for a decade, and that has not changed this year.
Callaway (9-1) has won at least one playoff game for nine consecutive seasons, and it has reached the third round of the state playoffs for the fifth straight year.
If Callaway beats Thomasville on Friday night at Callaway Stadium, it will advance to the state semifinals for third year in a row, and for the fifth time since 2013.
It’s a different team each year, with new players taking on key roles, but the wins just keep coming, no matter who is on the field.
“I think there are a lot of reasons that have contributed to a great tradition at Callaway,” said Wiggins, who has a career record of 147-48. “To be successful year in and year out, the consistency with our coaches has been tremendous part of that. And, (you have) the buy-in from not only our staff but our players, in everything we do. That’s from the offseason program, to the camps, and the workouts we do over the summer, to the way we practice. There are just so many things that go into being successful, and being able to compete at a high level.”
Wiggins, after spending three seasons at Callaway as an assistant coach under Claude Giddens, took over as head coach in 2005.
It took a little while for the program to get rolling with Wiggins at the helm.
The Cavaliers went 4-6 in 2005, and they made it to the state playoffs and lost in the first round in 2006 and 2007.
The breakthrough season came in 2008 when Callaway went 10-2 and won the first state-playoff game in the history of the program.
The Cavaliers took it a step further in 2009, reaching the third round of the state playoffs.
Callaway made it to the second round of the playoffs in 2010, and it was bounced in the first round in 2011.
The Cavaliers reached the second round once again in 2012, and they’ve won at least one playoff game every year since then.
Callaway made its first semifinal appearance in 2013, and it led a powerful Buford team at the half before losing 24-14.
After reaching the second round of the playoffs in 2014 and 2015, Callaway returned to the semifinals in 2016, and it lost to eventual state-champion Benedictine.
Callaway’s season ended in the third round in 2017, and it made it to the semifinals in 2018 and 2019, losing close games to Rockmart and Brooks County.
Now here the Cavaliers are, advancing deep into the playoffs as usual, with a chance to reach the semifinals yet again.
“To be in the quarterfinals for the fifth year in a row is very special,” Wiggins said. “I think it’s not something that happened over night. It took a lot of years, and there has been so much buy-in from our players, and the community, and our faculty and staff.”
The Cavaliers have had plenty of star players over the years, and typically those men are among the hardest workers on the team, and that’s the case this year.
“We’ve had a lot of great players, and those guys’ work ethic on the field and off is extremely high,” Wiggins said. “When you look at guys like Demetrius Coleman, and Jalin Shephard, and Charlie Dixon, and (Osiras) Rivas, and the list goes on, those guys have put in so much time in the weight room, on the field, rep after rep, to build a skill level. There are hours of commitment to their craft. That’s been the case for so many that came before. People don’t just walk out on the field. Our guys have been in great competition with really good players. They’re coached very hard, they’ve been in the weight room, day in and day out. A lot of time has been put toward developing our team and our players over the years.”
By this point of the season, the players have been practicing for months, and they have been participating in one football activity or another for almost a full year, yet they continue to give it their all.
“When you get to this point in the season, there are a lot of nights walking off the field when its 38, 39 degrees, and it’s dark. The guys have to want to be here this time of year,” Wiggins said. “That’s a big deal. When we’ve been on the field as long as we have, working, and the physical practices and the weight room, the guys have to want to go back out there the next day. That want-do is what drives success.”
CALLAWAY VS. THOMASVILLE
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Callaway Stadium
WHAT: Third round of Class AA state playoffs
RECORDS: Callaway (9-1); Thomasville (8-4)
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Callaway, the number one seed from Region 5-AA, won by forfeit against Banks County in the first round of the playoffs before beating Lovett 16-9; Thomasville, the number two seed from Region 1-AA, beat Westside-Augusta 42-13 and Dodge County 44-7 in the playoffs
OF NOTE: Callaway and Thomasville nearly met in the Class AA state-championship game last season. Callaway lost to Brooks County 39-35 in the state semifinals, and Thomasville lost to Dublin 55-45 in the state semifinals; this is the first-ever meeting between Callaway and Thomasville; Callaway is attempting to reach the state semifinals for the third straight year and for the fifth time since 2013; While Callaway has never won a state title, Thomasville has won state four times, although its most recent championship game in 1988