E.A. Sports Today

Don’t sleep on us

That’s the message Alexandria running back McCallum has for teams the Valley Cubs will play this football season
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
LINCOLN – Nate McCallum has a message for all the teams Alexandria will play this fall: Don’t sleep on me.
A few moments later, stepping into the leadership role he’s expected to play this season, he amended his original statement: Don’t sleep on us.
It will be a young Valley Cubs team that will take the field in Todd Ginn’s second season as head coach, but one he expects will be better as the summer and season goes along.
Through it all McCallum will be the focal point of the offense. He got a taste of what that will be like Thursday as he got most of the attention during the varsity portion of the night’s spring game at Lincoln.
The Valley Cubs were blanked 14-0 in the two varsity quarters, but McCallum got most of the attention. The Cubs ran 24 plays in the half and the rising senior carried 14 times for 73 yards.
McCallum got the ball on each of Alexandria’s first five plays and six of its first seven. His two best runs were a 5-yard gain on his second carry when he broke away from two defenders in the backfield and carried three more forward and a 44-yard burst in the second quarter in which he broke multiple tackles like a back determined not to ever be brought to the ground.
“I’m a leader, I’m a senior, it’s my last year here so I have to teach the young-uns how to work,” he said. “We’re young, we’re real young, and we just have to pick it up a little bit; I’m looking forward to winning. Everybody knows we’re young, but they don’t need to sleep on us because we’re going to be good.”
McCallum likely will get the ball 25-30 times a game in the fall. It’s the kind of workload Keenan Woodruff had for the Valley Cubs the last couple years. He’s prepared for it and plans to work the whole summer with his teammates to be ready.
“I think this year is my year,” he said. “This summer I’ve got to work real hard.”
“He’s got to tote it a bunch, but he’s so important for us on defense, too,” Ginn said.
The key to McCallum’s effectiveness during this critical season to his future will be how he handles the inexperience of his offensive line; the Valley Cubs lost four linemen off last year’s team. Ron Wiggins faces a similar challenge at Jacksonville, which is replacing its entire front. The first public at that comes Friday when the Golden Eagles play Talladega in their spring game at Wellborn.
“He’s going to have to be a leader,” Ginn said. “When you lose two yards because somebody missed a pickup, you’ve got to get up and know those guys aren’t doing that on purpose. If they’re really good leaders like I think both of them will be you’re going to see them not get all shook up.”
The game marked the end of Ginn’s first spring with the Valley Cubs. He got the job after the team completed their drills last year, so there’s been “a ton of teaching” and a lot of patience this year.
“In nine days you’re not going to fix the world,” Ginn said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but for a lot of these guys this is the first game they’ve ever seen, so that’s what’s good. It’s hard not to get frustrated because I’m so competitive and our staff’s so competitive. You want to get good right now but a lot of these guys this is the first time they’ve run the plays.”
The second half of Thursday’s game was reserved for the backups and Alexandria won that segment 3-0 behind some hard running by Donovan Lomax, an untested rising junior who could make an impact on the varsity in the fall, and Luis Torres’ 25-yard field goal with 29.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Another thing you learned from the exercise is linebacker Devin Burton will, as Ginn observed, “knock your gourd off.” He made several big hits in the game, including a head-on stop of Keyshon Townsend for no gain early in the game.
Lincoln scored its two touchdowns when Brian Garrett took a two-yard hitch pass from Jack Poarch and turned it into a 43-yard score and Cam Reynolds went five yards up the middle early in the second quarter. Reynolds rushed for 34 yards and made a brilliant one-handed grab on the first scoring drive before McCallum stuck him in the ribs at midfield.
“Except for a couple plays I was pleased with our defense,” Ginn said. “I think that’s what you’re going to see. You’re going to see us hanging on our defense. That’s what Dad was about when he was here. That’s what I’m going to be about. It’s just about getting these guys to go find our mentality and it’s coming. We’re going to be one of those teams that’s going to be better as summer progresses, as the year progresses. Just know that’s going to happen.”

Alexandria      0 0 0 3 – 3
Lincoln             7 7 0 0 – 14
L – Brian Garrett 43 pass from Jack Poarch (Davidson Malone kick), 22.9 1Q
L – Cam Reynolds 5 run (Davidson Malone kick), 9:30 2Q
A – Luis Torres 25 FG, 29.9 4Q

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