The Calhoun Yellow Jackets winning streak goes to five games as they top the Haralson County Rebels 28-14 in Tallapoosa on Friday. The victory earns Calhoun a first-round playoff game at Hal Lamb Field at Phil Reeve Stadium on Nov. 15.
“This team’s been through a lot and to be able to do that is exciting,” Yellow Jackets head coach Clay Stephenson said. “We’re just going to keep taking one practice at a time, one game at a time and hopefully keep getting better.”
An answered prayer
Haralson County’s Clay Hyatt scored a go-ahead touchdown with 26 seconds left prior to halftime. Calhoun took over at its own 32-yard line with 18 ticks remaining.
Down 14-8 and receiving the ball to start the second half, Calhoun could kneel down to the break. But the Jackets had no such notions.
“We practice the two-minute drill every week and this week, and this week we did it actually with a live defense out there,” Stephenson said. “I think that helped us out a little bit.”
That preparation paid off. After completing a 23-yard pass to the Rebel 45, Stephenson called his team’s final timeout with four seconds left.
The ensuing play saw senior quarterback Jake Morrow fling it as far as he could to the right corner of the field. The ball was tipped at the 3 and caught by senior Grant Gilmer, who rolled into the end zone for a touchdown as the clock hit 0:00.
“Till the horn blows, it’s never over,” Stephenson said. “Threw it up and had a tipped ball in the perfect spot and … Grant came away with it which was huge momentum change.”
The sideline exploded and the Prayer at Haralson County was answered. At halftime, the score was 14-14.
“We told them it was going to be a 48-minute game and we handled some adversity pretty well that first half,” Stephenson said. “When we tied it up to end the first half, it’s kind of starting over I said. We didn’t feel like we played great, but now we get to start over and play them for two quarters.”
The Hail Mary score was the turning point of the game as junior running back Jerrian Hames scored two of his three total touchdowns on the evening from 3 and 31 yards, respectively, sealing the victory. Hames finished with 134 yards on 19 carries.
Under center, Morrow completed Friday 10-14 for 144 yards and the big TD.
Defense steps up
Calhoun’s defense flipped the script in the second half, pitching a shut out and grounding a clock-chewing, triple-option offense. After allowing 163 first-half Rebel yards, Haralson County gained 53 in the final 24.
“The players started making plays, the coaches made some adjustments,” Stephenson said. “It’s so tough to practice that look in scout teams, so it took them a drive or two to get under their belt, but I was proud of the way they adjusted and the kids started playing harder.”
With Calhoun and region-undefeated North Murray victorious, the Yellow Jackets finish 2019 in second to the Mountaineers, who take Region Six for the first time, snapping Calhoun’s 18-year region title streak.
The Yellow Jackets conclude the 2019 regular season at the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe Warriors next Friday, Nov. 8. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.