The Calhoun coaching staff had a pretty good idea of what to expect from their returning starters off the team that won a state title back in December. So as they entered Spring Practice a couple weeks ago, one of their biggest focuses was on developing depth and seeing which younger, more inexperienced players would step up.
That carried over into Tuesday’s annual Gold and Black Spring Game as the younger players had the majority of the snaps in the contest at Phil Reeve Stadium. No score was officially kept, but the “White” team and “Black” team scored one touchdown apiece in the contest with both coming on pass plays. Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said he was pleased with the game and with Spring Practice overall.
“I thought we had a great Spring,” said Lamb, who will enter his 20th season at the helm for the Jackets in 2018. “I thought our execution today wasn’t bad, and we were able to get a lot of time for the young kids. We wanted to get them on film and see where they were at. I thought our execution was pretty good, and we didn’t have too many turnovers. The kids’ effort was there, and our alignment was good. Overall, it was a good couple weeks of Spring Practice and a good way to finish it off today.”
The starters played the first two series on Tuesday with returning starter Gavin Gray taking snaps at quarterback for both the White and Black Teams. He connected with receiver Luke Moseley for a couple first downs on the first drive of the game for the White offense before punting. He then connected with receiver Brannon Spector for two first downs and tight end Davis Allen for another on the first drive for the Black offense before a turnover on downs ended the possession.
After that, the reserves took over, and the Black team found the end zone for the first points of the game a couple series later when Jake Prather connected with Ethan Crump on a 40-yard touchdown pass. Julio Deleon connected on the extra point. Brett Garland also had a nice run on the drive to convert for a first down.
The second touchdown came after a short halftime break when the White offense took advantage of a turnover with a strong drive that culminated in a 20-yard TD pass from Jake Morrow to Grant Gilmer. Deleon once again made the extra point. The score was set up by an interception from the White’s Ethan Tibbs and return to the Black 35.
The White team forced another turnover on the next drive when Will Hawkins punched the ball loose on a sack and it was recovered by teammate Brad Stone. Hawkins had a couple sacks on the day. From that point on the defenses dictated the game with stops. The only real offensive output came on a few solid runs by Prather for the Black Team.
Lamb said he was impressed by some of the juniors and underclassmen who are going to be asked to fill some of the roles left open by a large graduating senior class.
“We’ve got to have some rising juniors step up,” said Lamb. “We took a long hard look at them the last couple weeks and today. I told them that it’s time for them to be a varsity player. Some of the sophomores and freshman have a little more time to get ready, but some of the juniors are going to be asked to do a lot on this team. I thought overall it was a good few weeks for them, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do. Our returning starters had a great spring. They just picked up right where the left off last season.”
Calhoun is coming off a 14-1 campaign in 2017 in which they won the Class AAA State Championship with a 10-6 victory over Peach County at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They also secured the program’s 17th straight region title, which tied the state record set by Lincoln County from 1982-1999. Some coaches would have to worry about the level of motivation and complacency coming off a championship season, but Lamb said his team showed no signs of that in the Spring.
“They are very motivated still,” said Lamb. “They’ve still got something to prove. We have the opportunity to set a new state record this coming season with a possible 18th straight region title so they are definitely focused on doing that and trying to get back to play for a state championship. We can’t get complacent, and we talked about that almost every day this Spring. We’ve got to get better every day. You can’t stay the same.”
Next up on the calendar for Calhoun is the summer workout and conditioning program, which will start in a few weeks. They will start Fall practice in late July, play their preseason scrimmage at home against Northwest Whitfield on Aug. 9 and open the regular season on Thursday, Aug. 16 against Ridgeland at Barron Stadium in Rome as part of the Corky Kell Classic.
“These next couple weeks, we’ll concentrate on grades and finishing the school year strong in the classroom, but June 4 will be our first day for the summer program,” said Lamb. “I’m excited about the summer, and I think our kids are. Many of the kids know what to expect, and I think they enjoy it. We want them to take some time off and enjoy the summer, but there is also time to keep working. We want to get them in the best shape we can to start practice in July. Aug. 16 against Ridgeland will be here before we know it so we’ve got to be ready.”