Callaway ready for playoff run
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
During a season that’s been like no other, it has been business as usual for the Callaway Cavaliers.
Callaway, which has thrived under the leadership of head coach Pete Wiggins, has put together another exceptional season that will continue on Friday with a showdown against Lovett in the second round of the Class AA state playoffs.
Callaway (8-1) won the Region 5-AA championship, and it advanced to the second round of the playoffs when Banks County forfeited the first-round game because of Covid-19 issues.
Callaway has made it at least as far as the second round of the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 years, and it is looking to reach the quarterfinal round for the sixth time since 2009.
If the Cavaliers win two more games they’ll make it to the semifinals for the fourth time since 2013, and for the third consecutive year.
While the season has been typical for the Cavaliers from a win-loss standpoint, just about everything else about this year has been different. Like every other football team in the state, Callaway has had to make radical adjustments because of Covid-19.
Spring practice was canceled, the summer schedule was dramatically altered, there were no preseason games, and once the season did begin, the Cavaliers had to deal with a revolving door of players lost because of quarantine procedures.
Yet through it all, the Cavaliers have thrived, and they bring their typically high expectations into the playoffs.
“Early in the season you dealt with the cancelation of scrimmages and losing a couple of games, and just wondering would you be able to play on Friday night, and wondering which kid might be next as far as getting quarantined,” Wiggins said. “There were so many hurdles to jump over not just for Callaway, but for every team in the state of Georgia. To be here in the second round is really special for our school, and for our community.”
Callaway, after starting 5-0, lost to Haralson County 36-29, but it bounced back for wins over Temple and Heard County to secure the program’s eighth region title since 2008.
Callaway finished with a 3-1 region record, while Heard County, Bremen and Haralson County all went 2-2.
“This has been the strongest region we’ve ever played in across the board,” Wiggins said. “You think about a team as good as Temple not even in the playoffs. Our region was very difficult, very well-coached, a lot of good players on every team. It was a very physical, solid game each week in our region.”
The Cavaliers finished at the top of the region ladder thanks in part to a group of seniors who have done a lot of winning over the years.
“I’m very appreciative of our senior leaders for sticking with us,” Wiggins said. “There have been so many ups and downs to handle, and they’ve dealt with them. They’ve had injuries and other difficulties, and I feel like our guys have handled so many adverse situations, and pulled together, and I think it’s made us a stronger football team as the year went on. We’ve gotten better each week, and I’m excited about where we’re at right now.”
The Cavaliers finished the regular season with an impressive 30-17 win over the rival Heard County Braves, and they were looking forward to beginning their playoff run the following week.
Unfortunately for Callaway, Banks County was unable to play, so the players and coaches got an unexpected week off.
While there wasn’t a game to play, it was business as usual for the Cavaliers, and that included their traditional post-practice meal on Thanksgiving.
When the Cavaliers have still been playing on Thanksgiving, which is just about every year, the players are treated to a feast, which this year included pork chops, grits, and cinnamon rolls.
“A few days ago, we had a Thanksgiving breakfast for the team, and just to see the support from family members and the community to make that really special for the players is really unique,” Wiggins said. “I think it’s another very strong example of what we’re talking about.”
If the season is going to continue past this week, Callaway will need to find a way to dispatch a strong Lovett team that is 7-2 after beating Pepperell 38-17 in a first-round matchup last week.
If Callaway beats Lovett, it will play Thomasville or Dodge County in the third round.
OF NOTE: For a preview of the Lovett game, see Friday’s sports section.