Calhoun's Hal Lamb at Corky Kell Classic press conference

Calhoun coach Hal Lamb (left) signs the contract for his team to play Ridgeland in the Corky Kelly Classic at Barron Stadium on Aug. 16. Also pictured is (from left) Executive Director Dave Hunter, Ridgeland principal Karen Hughes and Ridgeland athletic director Robert Stinson. (Alex Farrer, CalhounTimes.com)

ROME — Calhoun finished out a special season in 2017 playing on a pretty big stage, and they will begin the 2018 season playing on a big one as well.

The defending Class AAA state champion Jackets will kick off the season by playing in the Corky Kell Classic at Barron Stadium on Aug. 16. Calhoun will take on Ridgeland at 5:30 p.m. in the first of two games with the second being a matchup between Rome and Marietta at 8:30 p.m.

The matchups, which kick off a three-day, three-stadium opening weekend for the Corky Kell Classic, were originally announced in late October but made official on Tuesday morning when a press conference and meet and greet was held at the Rome-Floyd Tennis Center next to Barron Stadium and the official contracts were signed by coaches and school administrators.

Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said he is looking forward to being a part of such a great event to kick off the season.

“I think it’s exciting for our program, our fans and our community,” said Lamb. “I think being the opening game in the state of Georgia is going to incredible, and I know our fans do a tremendous job of following us wherever we play and we’ll have as many people here as we can. I think it’s going to be a playoff-type atmosphere.”

Executive Director of the Classic Dave Hunter, the former head coach at Brookwood, introduced representatives from the City of Rome and Floyd County to open the press conference on Tuesday and then was joined by the representatives from the schools participating in the games to sign the official contracts. Lamb signed for Calhoun High, and Ridgeland, which is searching for a new head coach right now after Wesley Tankersley left to take the head job at Stephens County in early January, was represented by principal Karen Hughes and athletic director Robert Stinson. Rome head coach John Reid and Marietta head coach Rich Morgan followed by signing the contracts for their game.

The doubleheader at Barron Stadium will be the first two games of the Corky Kell Classic, which will continue with two more games at Georgia State Stadium on Friday (Aug. 17) and five games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday (Aug. 18).

Hunter said he is very happy to be opening this year’s Classic in Rome and is looking forward to the doubleheader at Barron Stadium, which features two good matchups.

“When we added Thursday games, Rome reached out to us to let us know they would be interested in hosting it,” said Hunter. “They put together a package for us to look at, and it was impossible to refuse. I can’t say enough about how great Rome and Floyd County have been to us. The big thing after that was getting the games set up. We definitely wanted Rome and Calhoun to play in it, who both are state-championship programs, and then to get up-and-coming programs like Ridgeland and Marietta was really great. I think the matchups are tremendous. I’ve heard how well Rome and Calhoun fans follow their teams so I expect it to be overflowing and a great night for football.”

Calhoun and Ridgeland have played five times in their programs’ histories with the Jackets leading the series 4-1. Calhoun has won all four matchups since 2008 with the most recent being a 37-0 victory at Ridgeland in 2013.

Lamb said playing a team that has had consistent success like Ridgeland will be an incredible opening test for his Jackets.

“We’ve got a very formidable opponent in front of us, and we’re excited about that challenge,” said Lamb. “Even though they are looking for a coach right now, they are a very good team and always very athletic with a lot of speed. It will help us a lot to play someone like that early in the season to see where we are as a team.”

The Jackets will enter 2018 coming off their Class AAA State Championship victory over Peach County in December at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, their third state championship under Lamb and fourth all-time.

They will also be looking to break the all-time state record for consecutive region titles in 2018 as they go for 18 straight to pass Lincoln County’s mark of 17 in a row from 1982-1998. Lamb is heading into his 20th year at the helm for Calhoun.