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A “South Georgia Legend” passes
Coach Anson Callaway,
Coach Anson Callaway

Coach Anson Callaway, a remarkable allsports coach and role model in Lyons, Georgia, who was born and raised in the closeknit Hillview Community in Tattnall County, died on May 10, 2024, at age 88.

Although sports fans in Lyons can brag that Coach Callaway’s many athletic accomplishments occurred at Bulldog Stadium or Partin Park, Tattnall County sports fans can rightfully point out that it all started in Hillview and Collins High School and claim him as a favorite son. On the other hand, I could lament somewhat tongue-in-cheek that Anson Calloway kept me from attending law school.

It began in August 1971 when my wife Barbara and I returned from the University of Georgia where I’d recently graduated with a major in Journalism and minor in History and was looking for a job to put groceries on the dinner table. Also, I was considering a remote possibility of attending law school at night. Integration was entering the second year in Tattnall County, and I secured a job as a sixth grade Social Studies teacher and football coach along with Coach Donald Durrence. At that time, the Mini-Tigers had not beaten Coach Callaway’s Lyons Bullpups in football, and Mr. John Clark, Principal at

Tattnall Elementary (formerly Tattnall County Industrial High School prior to integration), wanted Coach Durrence and me to put a W in the won-loss column with Lyons. Coach Durrence and Coach Jackie Trim had fallen short in 1970.

Donald and I scouted Anson’s opening game with Metter, and I came home grinning like a mule grazing in a briar patch. The pups operated out of a Wing T offensively and a five front defense. They weren’t fancy on offense; most of the blocking was straight up. Reverses and double reverses came often enough to slow down the defensive linebackers, and the defense was solid.

We operated out of an I-Wing and I told Donald we could utilize cross and fold blocking with some triple option out of the wing and score a couple dozen points before the pups knew what hit them. He looked sort of funny and muttered something like, “Okay, this will be interesting...”

I should have paid attention to Coach Durrence’s somewhat less than enthusiastic response. Although we moved the ball well the first half, Anson adjusted at halftime, and we got smoked by a score of 24-6.

That smarted, and lesson number one from Coach Callaway was buckle your chinstraps tight when you played his puppies. We lost the second encounter in 1971 and the first game in 1972 before tying three straight games. Those contests resulted in scores of 0-0, 6-6, and 18-18, when neither team could score an extra point. After the 18-18 game, Coach Callaway said a tie game was like kissing your sister, and he was getting tired of it.

In the second contest in 1974, we agreed to play a double header in Tiger Stadium, including the 115-pound and 125-pound teams. We won the 115-pound contest by a score of 20-8 and the 125 game by a score of 24-6.

Afterwards at midfield, the Lyons players lined up to shake hands with the Mini Tigers. When Anson shook my hand, he commented with a slight grin. “This is not what I had in mind when I said I was tired of kissing my sister.” Later, he came to the Mini-Tiger dressing room where an uproarious celebration was going on and asked to speak to the team.

“Boys,” he said. “You played great and deserved to win. I’m going back to Lyons and schedule a game with the Russians. I’m tired of getting beat by Reidsville” (even though the Mini-Tigers had not beaten the Pups prior to those two games). Then he congratulated many Tiger players by name. I’d wager every living player present remembers that dressing room speech 50 years ago.

But the 1974 season was not over. Reidsville and Lyons usually played in the Dixie Classic Midget Football Bowl in Waycross, GA. That generated interest in a local post season midget bowl, so the Ohoopee Bowl was initiated and played at Tiger Stadium in Reidsville in ‘74. The Mini-Tigers and the Bullpups faced off in the finals, and Tiger Stadium was full of fans from both teams who had grown accustomed to the exciting competition between the two teams.

The game did not disappoint. It was a back and forth affair whereby the lead was exchanged several times. Coach Callaway had made adjustments for the Reidsville running game that previously destroyed the Pups, and the Mini-Tigers had to go to a passing game in the second half that featured halfback Gerald Cox on a delayed pass behind the linebackers and between the safeties when both tight ends went up and out to draw the safeties toward the sidelines. It was known as the 77 split pass, and quarterback Dane Glisson went five-for-five to Cox for two touchdowns, and Gerald made the fifth reception with a broken shoulder and ran 40 plus yards for the TD to put the Mini-Tigers ahead with less than two minutes left in the game.

But the left side of the Mini-Tiger kickoff team converged on the receiver too soon, and Cecil Wilson bounced outside and ran to the Tiger five-yard line. The Tiger defense held for three plays, and then defensive guard Douglas Mincey thought time had expired and put his hand on the shoulder of the Lyons’ opposing offensive lineman and said. “It’s over, brother.”

But it wasn’t. Coach Danny Scott was serving as a volunteer head linesman and thought Douglas reached across before the clock ran out and threw a flag. Kenny Crews said the clock had expired, and Curtis Scott was not sure, so referee Donald Durrence, who had moved up to the position of head basketball coach at Reidsville High School, supported Coach Scott’s call and gave the Bullpups one more chance from the one-yard line after time expired. Coach Callaway put Cecil at quarterback and ran the sneak for the TD. No PAT was necessary; the Pups won, 22-20.

It was bedlam. Irate Tiger fans poured out of the stands to berate the referees while jubilant Lyons fans rushed the field to congratulate the Bullpups. At midfield, defensive Coach Jack Davis and I shook hands with Anson and his assistant.

“What a game,” he said quietly. “That Glisson to Cox pass killed us, and how many tackles did Elaroe McKinnon make? We could not block that young’un.”

Donald Durrence came by to congratulate Anson, as Tiger fans continued to howl at him and the other referees. Then he turned to me and yelled over the noise, “Ronnie, next year I will pay you to get certified referees! I ain’t going through this again!”

Those games formed a classic portrait of the Anson Callaway style. Don’t brag. Win gracefully or lose with class and teach the team to pick up the pieces and get back to work. In Marine Corps lingo, it’s simple. “Adjust and overcome.”

For the next 19 years as Offensive Coordinator at Reidsville High School, I was privileged to be part of many exciting contests that turned into cardiac stress tests, but none were more exciting (or disappointing) than the 1974 Ohoopee Bowl. Furthermore, I coached against many good football minds, but I believe Coach Anson Callaway was the most complete, all-around football coach who I had the pleasure, or sometimes the misfortune, to coach against. He was a solid role model type coach who could make a much needed positive impact on the youth of today who are often adrift in turbulent waters without a rudder.

Participating in such close, exciting games produces an adrenalin rush that is difficult to describe and makes practicing law seem mundane and boring. At any rate, I can blame Coach Anson Calloway for the fact that I didn’t go to law school. In reality, I probably ought to thank him.

Well done, Coach. You left your positive philosophy indelibly imprinted on all your players and at least one young coach who thoroughly enjoyed the experience of competing against you. Rest in Peace.