The Jackets (9-1) ran out to a big lead early on thanks to some explosive plays in the passing game and never looked back on their way to an 65-23 victory and their 17th straight region title. That ties Lincoln County’s all-time mark in the state of Georgia, which they set from 1982-1998.
Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said it’s almost unbelievable to think about the program achieving something like that.
“When you really sit back and think about it, it’s an amazing feat,” said Lamb, who won his first region title in 2001 in his third season at the helm of the Jackets. “It is a testament to these kids and coaches, but not only these kids on this year’s team but all the players that came before them. They have helped build an incredible tradition at Calhoun.”
Calhoun’s Gavin Gray racked up 358 yards through the air on 16-of-21 passing with five touchdowns, including several huge plays coming on screens, all coming in one half of play. The Jackets started the onslaught midway through the first quarter when Brannon Spector took a short pass from Gray and went 44 yards to the end zone.
On the next possession, Gray hit Luke Moseley deep for the first of his two touchdown catches on the night. He went 71 yards to make it 14-0. Gray added his third TD pass of the first quarter a few minutes later when Bralin Barton took a short screen pass and bobbed and weaved 71 yards for a score to make it 21-0.
Murray County got on the board late in the quarter on a 78-yard touchdown run by Tucker Gregg for one of the few offensive highlights on the night for the Indians. Gregg finished his Murray County career with a huge night, rushing for with 218 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns. He added another score on a 13-yard run in the third quarter. Jon Dooley scored the Indians’ final touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard run.
Calhoun added three more touchdowns and a field goal in the second quarter to take a 45-9 lead at the half. Murray County’s Juan Andrade connected on a 34-yard field goal for the Indians’ only points of the period.
For the Jackets in the second quarter, Gray connected again with Moseley for a 35-yard touchdown pass, and then Porter Law hauled in a six-yard touchdown catch from Gray. Zack Fuller added a seven-yard touchdown run late in the half, and Elmer Gutierrez chipped in a 23-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter. Gutierrez was also 6-for-6 on extra points in the half.
The second half continued Calhoun’s huge night through the air, even without Gray in the game. Payton Morrow threw a 13-yard touchdown pass, and Jake Morrow had two touchdown passes of his own to bring the total to eight for the team in the victory.
“I thought we were very good in that area tonight,” said Lamb said of his team’s passing game, especially on screens. “We just wanted to take what the defense gave us, and we weren’t going to try to run it a lot with them having seven in the box. We’ve got a lot of playmakers at receiver, and we just try to get them the ball any way we can, whether it is on screens or down the field. Once they catch it, they can do some incredible things with their ability to run after the catch.”
Payton Morrow connected with Aaron Hayes for a 13-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter. Jake Morrow, who was 7-for-8 with 66 yards through the air, connected with Max Nesbitt for a three-yard touchdown pass in the third and then with Grant Gilmer in the fourth for a 17-yard touchdown pass.
Calhoun will be the No. 1 seed from Region 6-AAA and host Pace Academy, the No. 4 seed from Region 5-AAA next Friday in the first round of the Class AAA State Playoffs. That opponent is still yet to be determined due to tiebreakers in the region.
“We’re excited to start the next part of our season,” said Lamb. “We’ve reached our first goal of winning a region title, and now we’re ready to go try to get our next goal which is a state title. It’s going to be a tough road. We need a really good crowd next Friday because this will be the toughest first-round opponent we’ve ever faced.”