By Robert Wilson
Tyrone Keys – who was a high school All-American defensive lineman on the undefeated Callaway High football team which won the Big Eight Conference championship in 1975 – had a feeling this year’s Callaway team was going to be special when he visited the team this summer.
Keys knows football. He was an All-SEC defensive lineman at Mississippi State and played seven seasons in the NFL, including winning the 1986 Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears, famous for the “Super Bowl Shuffle.” He is a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
So when Keys came away impressed with Callaway coach Dameon Brown and his players, it spoke volumes.
“I went by this summer and watched them, and I had good feeling about Coach Brown and his team,” said Keys, who now runs a non-profit ministry (All Sports Community Services, allsportscommunity.com) in Tampa. “Coach Brown runs a disciplined ship and is very organized. He has a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm. What he has done is a testament to him. Coach Brown is a great leader of young men. He sees something in everyone. When I was watching them work out, they always ran off the field, did the little things needed to become a winner. He gets the best out of his kids. It is remarkable what they have done this year after not playing in 2020 (Jackson Public Schools did not play sports that fall due to covid). Coach Brown could have easily gotten down and gotten a job somewhere else, but he stayed. His spirits remained high, and he was dedicated to the Callaway program. Coach Brown’s dad was a coach at Canton High with the late Odell Jenkins, who coached me at Callaway. Coach Brown grew up in a coach’s home and it shows. I’m a big fan of Coach Brown and have been following them this season.”
Keys was right about this Callaway team being special. Callaway has gotten to a terrific start, winning its first six games without a loss. While the other six JPS football teams (Forest Hill, Jim Hill, Lanier, Murrah, Provine and Wingfield) have struggled to recover from not playing in 2020 – those teams have a combined 3-35 record the season – Callaway is on pace to possibly be one of the best teams in school history. The Chargers’ biggest win was a 41-26 victory over Ridgeland, the Titans’ only loss this season. Callaway surprised Ridgeland – led by senior wide receiver and Ole Miss commitment Ayden Williams, one of the top receivers in the country – by jumping out to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter and never trailed.
With its great start, this Callaway team is chasing history.
The 1975 undefeated team – coached by the late Charlie Allman – is considered one of the best in Mississippi history. Twenty-one players went on to play college football: Keys, safety Larry Friday and offensive lineman Alan Massey at Mississippi State, quarterback Roy Coleman at Ole Miss, linebacker Ron “Clump” Taylor at Southern Miss and running back Lepolian Gentry at Jackson State just to mention a few. The Chargers’ defense was amazing, allowing only 8.5 points per game.
Then there was the 1984 team, also coached by Allman, which finished 12-2 and lost to Starkville in the state championship game. The best team since then was the 2012 team which won its first 14 games before losing to Oxford in the state semifinals. The Chargers scored a school record 569 points, an average of 37.9 points per game. That team was also filled with future college players like defensive lineman Breland Speaks (Ole Miss), offensive lineman Rod Taylor (Ole Miss), strong safety Ronald Walker (Louisville) and wide receiver Dayall Harris (Miami). That team was coached by current JPS athletic director Daryl Jones.
“This current Callaway team has some similarities to the 2012 team that I coached,” said Jones, who played running back at Provine and Jackson State before going into his coaching career. “Both teams have some great athletes at the skill positions.”
In addition to athletes, Jones raves about Brown and his coaching being a huge reason for this team’s success.
“Coach Brown has a knack for getting players to participate and play for him,” Jones said. “He has about 75 guys out there and he keeps them engaged and interested at practices and in games. He just doesn’t work with the first team or the star players. Coach Brown works the second team guys and also even gets the third team some reps. It’s pretty impressive what he does. His players have bought into his system.”
Brown played at Thomastown Attendance Center in Leake County and college at East Central Community College and Alcorn State. He started coaching at Powell Middle School in 2014 and has been at Callaway since 2016.
“We are a senior lead team that has playing experience now,” Brown said. “We still haven’t completely recovered from it (missing the 2020 season). We lost some good, young talent due to us not playing. But we have forced on, developing guys we do have. We focused on discipline and understanding the scheme in all three phases of the game. We have the potential to be a state champion.”
Callaway is led by senior Kedarius Wade, the team’s most versatile player who is a quarterback, running back, receiver, linebacker and kick returner. He is averaging 9 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns, caught seven passes for 124 yards, averaging 46 yards on three kickoff returns and has 21 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks this season. He has been offered by Mississippi State, Southern Miss, and Arkansas State.
Other key players for the Chargers are senior defensive back-running back Quay Thompson, senior wide receiver Demarcus Brown, junior wide receiver Jeremy Scott, senior defensive lineman Chris Brown and junior defensive lineman Tavarious Pepper and junior defensive back JaVontae Mosley. Callaway goes for its seventh win in a row Thursday night against Vicksburg in a MHSAA Class 5A, Region 2 game at Vicksburg. Vicksburg, 4-2 overall, and Callaway are tied for first place with 4-0 records in region play. Vicksburg had two close losses against 6A teams Germantown (10-6) and Warren Central (20-18). Vicksburg defeated Provine 14-6 last week. Callaway defeated Provine 22-14 in double overtime earlier this season.