They were ready to defend their home turf.
Leading up to last week’s state-playoff game, the Callaway High defensive players heard all about how tough St. Pius was.
St. Pius is a team that thrives this time of year, and it gets it done with a smash-mouth offense that usually just overpowers opposing defenses.
The Cavaliers were having none of that.
“We told them all week, they think they’re tougher,” Callaway defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard said. “That’s what they’re going to try to do, they’re going to try to out-tough you.”
That didn’t happen.
A St. Pius team that ran up and down the field through the first two rounds of the playoffs found the going much tougher against the Cavaliers last week at Callaway Stadium.
St. Pius did score 21 points, but one of those touchdowns came in the final minute after the outcome had been decided.
Callaway’s defense had a terrific day, and it also established the tone physically from the start.
There weren’t many missed tackles, and when the St. Pius ball-carriers went down, they usually went down hard.
“I’m just so proud of them,” Hubbard said of his defensive players. “They did everything we asked them to do in practice. I felt like going in, if we could make them get behind and try to catch up with us, we’d be in good shape. That’s what we did. We did a good job of assignment football on the veer play and the quarterback pitch. They just did a great job.”
Linebackers KeShun Freeman and Labronze Zelaya combined for 30 tackles.
Zelaya, a junior, had 11 solo tackles and finished with 15 total tackles, and he delivered some of the night’s biggest hits.
Freeman, a senior and the team’s leading tackler this season, had 10 solo tackles and five assists to finish with 15 tackles.
Defensive lineman Deon Smith added 10 tackles.
Callaway also scored on defense, with Dre Martin returning an interception for a touchdown, and Ed Daniel also had an interception.
Terry Godwin also had an interception, although it was negated by a penalty.
Freeman, who has committed to Georgia Tech, said everyone on the defensive side was ready for St. Pius.
“All week in practice, we were saying, stay focused, be focused,” Freeman said after Friday’s game. “When you’re tired, just keep going. A lot of our boys stepped up. Labronze Zelaya, my little brother, he made us all proud tonight. Everyone made me proud tonight. I was so proud of my team.”
Martin, whose touchdown in the fourth quarter sealed the victory, said he knew St. Pius was going to try “to punch us in the stomach.”
“We just went to practice and worked hard,” Martin said.