With Friday night’s 49-0 win over LFO, the Calhoun Yellow Jackets and head coach Hal Lamb are now state record holders, as the program with the longest streak of region championships — 18 to be exact.
“I can’t say enough about the players that have done this,” Lamb said on this cold Friday night in early November, as players, both former and current, stood on the field with their family and friends. “This bunch especially, we were able to get the 18th region championship.”
After an attempt by his players to douse him with the water jug, the final seconds of what was a running clock since the start of the second half ticked away, and the Yellow Jackets (10-0, 8-0 Region 6-AAA) cemented the prestige of their program in the record books.
“You know it’s just amazing to do what we’ve done, really,” Lamb said. “There’s a lot of players who’ve come through the program and there’s a lot of tradition.”
“There’s an awful lot of people I need to thank. There’s too many to thank,” he continued. “It’s been a special run.”
After the handshake line finished and LFO ran for the locker room, the Calhoun players and staff stayed on the field to wait for fans to partake in the special presentation to commemorate the moment. There on the field waiting with a plaque in hand was Lamb’s father, Ray Lamb, who won 249 games and three state championships over a 32-year career of coaching high school football in Georgia.
When his father was finished reading from the plaque — which noted the Georgia state record, previously held by Lincoln County when it was under the leadership of legendary coach Larry Campbell — Lamb was surrounded by his players, the latest group to wear the Region 6-AAA crown.
The crowd then turned to The Reeve’s video board, where the pictures of each of Lamb’s 18 region champion teams appeared, leading in to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” as the first photo came up. When the last picture, those of this year’s team with the open-ended conclusion of “much more to come” underneath them, fireworks shot into the air from behind the screen as the crowd on the field cheered.
Coming into Friday’s game, Lamb said he was unsure of how his team was going to come out against the upset-minded LFO Warriors (7-3, 6-2 in Region 6-AAA).
“I didn’t know how mentally ready we were or not,” he said, especially after facing one of the best running backs in the state last week in Haralson County’s Treylan Sheppard. “But we were and we came out and took care of business and executed on both sides of the ball.”
The Yellow Jackets scored on each of their first four offensive possessions.
Zack Fuller ran it in from 15 yards out to open the scoring just under three minutes into the game, after the Calhoun defense forced LFO to punt.
On the next two possessions for the Warriors offense, they were forced to punt after their drives stalled out, and Calhoun jumped on the opportunity each time with a score. Fuller scored again on a 15-yard run with 4:24 left in the first quarter, followed by David Braden snagging a Gavin Gray ball in the endzone to make the score 21-0 just over two minutes into the second quarter. The Braden score followed a fourth-down conversion on a slant route from Gray to Bralin Barton in the redzone.
On the next series for LFO, Collin Baggett chased down Warrior quarterback Malachi Powell off the end and forced a fumble recovered by Calhoun. On the third drive of the ensuing possession for Calhoun, Jonkell Tolbert ran it in from four yards out, giving his team the 28-0 lead.
The fumble troubles continued for LFO on the next drive, as pressure on the quarterback put the ball on the turf. And it was sent rolling backward when an LFO player tried to dive on the ball but missed. Calhoun players scrambled for the ball, with one briefly picking it up before fumbling himself. Finally, Carson Griffin was able to grab it and run it in for the score, with 6:41 left in the first half.
Calhoun would go on to score once more before halftime, when Gray hit Brannon Spector on a 25-yard touchdown pass with 15.5 seconds remaining.
The second half saw substitutes get some playing time. Early in the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Jake Morrow threw a 10-yard score to Grant Gilmer to bring the score to 49-0.
The Warriors only made it into Calhoun territory a handful of times and were never able to sustain any drives due to costly penalties and a stifling Yellow Jacket front which punished the triple-option.
But now Calhoun starts another season, Lamb said, as it will take next week to prepare for Fannin County in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s a new season,” he said. “Hopefully it’s a five-week season. We take it one on a time. We’ve gotta be ready to play next week or else it’s all over. We’ve got to keep getting better.”