They embraced the opportunity.
Most of Callaway’s opponents this season have thrown the ball fairly infrequently, but that wasn’t the case last week.
Pierce County brought a pass-happy offense to Callaway Stadium for a second-round playoff game, meaning it was going to be a busy night for the Cavalier defensive backs.
They were ready.
“It gave us the challenge to play man the whole game, and we took the challenge, and did good with it,” senior Pedy Leverette said. “Everybody locked down their man the whole night.”
Pierce County quarterback Tyler Harris has put up big numbers throughout the season, and the Cavaliers were well-prepared for the aerial assault according to senior Dante Lindsey.
“I was ready for it. All of us, we were ready for it,” Lindsey said. “We practiced hard.”
Another senior, Ed Daniel, said the cornerbacks enjoyed the chance to do something different, to play a team that throws the ball almost every down.
“It was pretty fun,” Daniel said. “We don’t get to play the pass too much. Most teams run a lot. It was a challenge.”
Pierce County scored three touchdowns in the game, but two of those scores came in the fourth quarter after the outcome had been decided.
Callaway built a 35-7 lead through three quarters thanks in large part to the performance of the defensive backs, and the defense in general.
One of Callaway’s defensive backs, junior Terry Godwin, returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Lindsey had eight tackles, and Leverette, Michael Moss, Daniel and Jet Snellings also played well in the secondary.
Most of those players also got playing time on offense at the wide-receiver position, and Moss had a touchdown catch.
Leverette said he embraces the chance to play on both sides of the ball.
“I like to be on the field as much as I can,” he said. “I like playing on both sides of the ball. As long as I’m helping the team, I’m fine with it.”
Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said the defensive backs had a lot to do with the win over Pierce County.
“We do a lot with those guys,” Wiggins said. “Last week in the Pierce County game, they played a tremendous role in that victory. Obviously we created turnovers, but we gave them problems with the different coverages coach (Dusty) Hubbard showed during the game. They worked hard at it during the week, as they have all year.”
No play was bigger from a defensive standpoint than the one provided by Godwin in the first quarter.
Trailing 6-0, Pierce County had driven the ball inside the Callaway 10-yard line.
Harris threw the ball toward the right sideline, and Godwin jumped the route and picked the ball off at the 5-yard line.
Godwin raced 95 yards for the touchdown, and Callaway was up 14-0.
The Cavaliers led by at least 14 points the rest of the way.
“He turned the game around,” Callaway running back Eddie Culpepper said of Godwin’s pick six. “That was a game-changer.”
While those players get it done on the defensive end, they’re also critical to the offensive game plan.
They’ve all made some big catches during the season, including Godwin, who is one of the state’s best wide receivers.
The Cavaliers are mostly a running team, though, but that doesn’t mean the wide receivers are standing idly by on those plays.
A lot of Callaway’s running plays go for big yardage, and the wide receivers help out by blocking, and they do it well.
“We’re real big on blocking,” Leverette said. “You have to get out there on the edge and block. We practice hard on blocking every day. We work on that a lot. We like blocking. We have fun with it.”
Wiggins said the receivers, who are coached by Kareem Douhne, “take tremendous pride in stalk blocking.”
“Coach Douhne, he played that position in high school and in college. He was very good at it. He demands a lot of his kids, and they do a great job,” Wiggins said. “They’re very physical. A lot of times in what we do, we don’t throw the ball a whole lot. We run the football, and we ask those guys to block, and they really do a tremendous job.”
Wiggins said while a big-time block doesn’t receive as much attention as a touchdown, it carries just as much weight with him.
“There have been several games where some of those kids had touchdown receptions, but in the same game they might have had a pancake on a stalk block that allowed somebody else to score,” Wiggins said. “For me, that’s just as important as the touchdown catch.”
This week’s opponent, St. Pius, offers a different challenge for the defensive backs.
Unlike Pierce County, St. Pius relies almost exclusively on the run, although it will put the ball in the air on occasion.
“We always have to be on our toes,” Leverette said.
If the Cavaliers win the game, they’ll advance to the semifinals for the first time in school history.
“We’ve very confident,” Lindsey said. “I think we can do it. The defense just needs to go out there and hold them. The offense will score some points.”