Hal Lamb, legendary and decorated head coach of the Calhoun Yellow Jacket football team, announced at a press conference on Thursday afternoon that he has decided to retire from coaching after 21 seasons at the helm for the Jackets. Longtime Calhoun assistant coach Clay Stephenson was named his replacement.
During his tenure as head coach, Lamb led the team to three state titles (2011, 2014, 2017), a state-record 18 straight region titles, 138 consecutive region wins. Lamb’s Jackets have finished runners-up at state five times, appeared in the Final Four of the state playoffs two additional times and earned a spot in at least the Elite Eight. He has been named region Coach of the Year 11 times.
Outside of Calhoun, Lamb also served as head coach of Upson-Lee High School for two seasons, as well as spending time prior as an assistant coach of Upson-Lee and Cartersville High School. His final overall head coaching record stands at 238-52.
Lamb was also an excellent football player, starting at the University of West Georgia for three seasons as a wide receiver.
Stepping away after amassing such an illustrious career is far from an easy decision, but Lamb knew that it was time for him to move on.
“It was time, I’ve been praying about it for nearly two years,” Lamb said after delivering the news. “I was pinpointing this time to do it, and I went through the season and I didn’t have any sort of changes in my mind to not do it, so my wife and I prayed about it and this is the right time. I’m going to miss it, but I can’t coach forever. It’s time.”
Lamb will now turn the reins over to Stephenson, who played under Lamb and has been apart of the Calhoun coaching staff since 2004. He most recently operated as the team’s wide receivers coach. While he is excited about ushering in a new era of Jacket football, Stephenson hopes to maintain Lamb’s legacy of consistently coaching contenders, and, more importantly, leaving a lasting impact on the players both on and off the field.
“It’s very humbling, and it’s a big task that I do not take lightly,” Stephenson said. “I have the upmost respect for that position, and the great job that Lamb has done for so long.”
“Trying to live up to that standard of coaching is going to be tough, but I’m excited to get started and to have this wonderful opportunity. Because of the foundation he laid, we don’t have to change much. We just have to keep the ball rolling. Our job as coaches is to get the best out of the kids both on the field and also in the classroom and make them better men after they leave the program, so that’s what I’m going to continue doing. I’ve been around Coach Lamb since I was 13, and first and foremost he’s a great man of God, and it was an honor and a privilege to play for and coach under a man of such character.”
Lamb also shared that he believes that the program is in great hands going forward under Stephenson’s leadership.
“I’m happy for (Clay),” Lamb said. “There are probably three or four guys here that could be the head coach of this football program, but they chose Coach Stephenson. He’s an awesome person, and he will do a tremendous job. He’s been with me a long time, and even played for me. He cares about the kids, and I wanted to keep the staff intact, so I’m glad they chose him. I know he will do a really, really good job.”
It was also noted at the ceremony that Lamb will stay connected to the team, serving as a part-time campus facilities and event coordinator, and will assist new athletic director Brock Holley.
In addition to all the personnel decisions being made and shared at the press conference on Thursday, members from the Calhoun Board of Education also revealed that the field has been officially renamed Hal Lamb Field at Phil Reeve Stadium.
“Today we honor Coach Lamb as he chooses to retire from coaching. He has coached his last game on this field, his field - The Hal Lamb Field at Phil Reeve Stadium. What an honor it has been to work alongside him. We are grateful for his many contributions on and off the field of competition. Thank you Coach Lamb. We love and appreciate you," Calhoun City Schools Superintendent Michele Taylor said.
Lamb also shared how special the gesture is to him after the sign displaying the new name of the field was unveiled.
“It hasn’t even really hasn’t even sunk in yet,” Lamb said. “It’s such an honor, and its something I never dreamed would happen. I’m grateful for that for sure.”