Cheeto shines for Cavaliers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
His given name is Lathan Patterson, but everyone calls him Cheeto.
Patterson was a newcomer to the Callaway football program when his offensive-line coach tagged him with a nickname that has stuck.
“It came from Robbie Adams my freshman year,” Patterson said. “He was making jokes about me eating Cheetos.”
Cheeto is now a senior and a critical member of a team that is about to play for a state championship.
Patterson, who plays on the offensive and defensive lines, will be on the field on Tuesday at noon when Callaway plays Fitzgerald for the Class AA state title.
Patterson and his teammates came close the past two years, but they lost hard-fought games to Rockmart and Brooks County in the state semifinals.
The Cavaliers got another chance this year when they hosted the Rabun County Wildcats, and they left nothing to chance this time around.
Callaway dominated the game in every way on the way to a 41-17 victory, giving Patterson and his teammates their long-awaited trip to Atlanta for the championship game.
Patterson has been a key player for the Cavaliers (11-1), who won the region 5-AA championship before beginning their playoff run.
Patterson is an anchor on the offensive line, and he’s also an impact player on the other side of the ball as a defensive lineman.
Patterson wants to be on the field as much as possible, and he’s getting his wish.
“I love it,” Patterson said. “I feel like I can contribute more to the team.”
On offense, Patterson has helped open holes for running back Charlie Dixon while giving quarterback Demetrius Coleman time to throw.
Patterson appreciates the recognition he and the other offensive linemen receive from the offensive play-makers.
“That lets us know that they’re thankful for what we do,” Patterson said. “We don’t get our name called in the game.”
On defense, Patterson is part of a defensive-line group that includes more than 10 players who get some playing time on game night.
“Playing a lot of people helps,” Patterson said. “You’ll be fresh when you go out there.”
Patterson is part a football family.
His brother Lorenzo Patterson graduated from Callaway in 2015, and he helped the team reach the state semifinals for the first time in 2013.
Another brother, Lavaris Patterson, graduated in 2018, and he was also a part of a state semifinal team in 2016.
Now, Lathan Patterson has bragging rights on his brothers since he’s the first member of the family to make it to the championship game.
“Every day we’d argue about who has the best team,” a smiling Lathan Patterson said. “I guess me making it to state, it gives me the trophy.”