Defense shines again for Cavaliers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
In a game where points were difficult to come by, the Callaway High defense made the difference.
The Hardaway Hawks came into Friday’s game at Callaway Stadium feeling confident after opening the season with an impressive 33-3 win over Americus-Sumter.
Hardaway hung tough and kept it close, but ultimately it was Callaway’s stingy defense that made the difference.
The Hawks found the end zone in the third quarter, but other than that they were held scoreless as the Cavaliers secured a 17-6 victory to improve to 2-0.
Senior linebacker LaQuize Gilbert, who tied for the team lead in tackles with 11, said “we like to be the more physical team. We like to hammer them, lay the hits on them.”
In the second half, with Callaway’s offense struggling a bit with leading rusher Charlie Dixon out of the game with an injury, Hardaway had the ball a lot, but it was only able to score the one touchdown.
“The defense was standing tall in some tough situations,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said.
Gilbert was a critical part of that defensive effort with 11 tackles, including two for loss, and he also had a pass breakup to help thwart a Hardaway drive in the fourth quarter.
Senior linebacker Austin Thomas, who was Callaway’s leading tackler in the season opener, had 11 tackles against Hardaway, including one for loss, and he has 22 tackles in two games.
Linebackers Jarvis Parks and Ladarrius Williams each had seven tackles with two for loss, and Jalin Shephard had an interception.
As was the case in the week one win over Troup, Callaway got a strong effort from its defensive linemen, Chauncey Bradford, Keshawn Suggs, Trey Stephens, Caden Prather, Sam Williams, Fred Tigner and Caleb Woody.
While Thomas, Gilbert, Williams and Parks held things down at the linebacker position, Shephard, Cameron Smith and Osiris Rivas got it done at linebacker.
Offensively, the Cavaliers scored all 17 of their points in the first half, and that was enough.
Leading 10-0 in the second quarter, the Cavaliers nearly covered the length of the field in one play, with Jalin Shephard catching a short pass from Demetrius Coleman and turning it into an 87-yard touchdown.
Earlier in the half, Dixon scored on a 9-yard run, while Blake Eubanks made a 35-yard field goal and two extra points.
Dixon was effective in the first half with six carries for 46 yards, but he had to leave the game with a toe injury, and he didn’t return.
A handful of other backs, including Gilbert, Amarrion Truitt and Jordan King, filled in at running back the rest of the way.
“Those three guys all ran the ball hard, and I was proud of them for their effort throughout the game,” Wiggins said.
Callaway will try to move to 3-0 when it visits Douglass-Atlanta on Friday.