Dixon runs wild in final high-school game
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
He finished in style.
Callaway’s Charlie Dixon put the wraps on a memorable playoff run with another big-time performance against Fitzgerald in Tuesday’s Class AA state-championship game.
Dixon, who finished with nearly 800 rushing yards in four playoff games, ran for 229 yards on 27 carries with a touchdown in the 22-17 victory over Fitzgerald at Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta.
In four playoff games, Dixon accumulated 769 yards on 99 carries with nine touchdowns, and he helped Callaway capture its first state championship.
“Coming into the playoffs, my coaches always told me, we’ll go as far as you can take us,” Dixon said. “So at that moment, I knew my team was really depending on me, and I couldn’t let my team down. I see it in their eyes every day. They’re hungry. They want to win, so I couldn’t let them down.”
Early in the season, Dixon was slowed by a turf-toe injury, and he later missed two games because of quarantine procedures.
Dixon’s breakout game came against Temple when he ran for 211 yards on 27 carries with four touchdowns in a 41-20 road win.
The following week in the regular-season finale against Heard County, Dixon had 177 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns, and Callaway won 30-17 to secure the Region 5-AA championship.
After Callaway won in the first round of the playoffs by forfeit against Banks County, Dixon ran for 110 hard-earned yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns in a 16-9 victory over Lovett.
The following week against Thomasville, Dixon exploded for 237 yards on 26 carries with three touchdowns, and Callaway won 34-21 to reach the state semifinals for the third straight year.
In a semifinal showdown against Rabun County, Dixon had 188 yards on 21 attempts with three touchdowns, and his 97-yard scoring run in the second half helped put the game away.
For the season, Dixon ran for 1,462 on 215 carries, an average of nearly seven yards per attempt, with 20 touchdowns.
Dixon followed in the footsteps of Tank Bigsby, who enjoyed a spectacular prep career and was the freshman of the year in the SEC following an electrifying debut season at Auburn.
Dixon and his teammates were committed to continuing the program’s winning ways, even without Bigsby, who was such a valuable player during the 2018 and 2019 seasons when Callaway lost in the state semifinals.
“Everybody always said without Tank, they’re not going to go far,” Dixon said. “They can’t do anything without Tank. I was like, we don’t have to have Tank to win. We’re going to show the world that we can make our own team.”
Facing a Fitzgerald defense that had been dominant all season and was coming off a shutout victory over Jefferson County in the state semifinals, Dixon ran strong.
Dixon saved his best run of the day for the end. Callaway was clinging to a 15-10 lead when Dixon took a handoff from Demetrius Coleman, and he beat the Fitzgerald defense for a 69-yard touchdown with 2:11 to play.
For Dixon, that play was particularly satisfying because earlier in the second half he lost a fumble as Callaway was looking to hang onto the lead.
“That was a very special moment, especially because I fumbled,” Dixon said. “I knew I had a mistake to make up for.”
Fitzgerald answered with a touchdown of its own to get within five, but Callaway held on for the dramatic win, giving the program its first state title.
Callaway had lost in the state semifinals the previous two years, making Tuesday’s win that much more impactful.
“It makes it even more special,” Dixon said. “Our first three years of high school, we knocked on the door. This was the fourth time, and we had to knock down the wall. We decided we were going to do it.”
OF NOTE: For more on Callaway’s state-championship season, see the Friday and Saturday sports sections.