When two rival teams from schools less than 10 miles apart get together on the field, it’s always one of the most anticipated games and best atmospheres of the year. This Friday’s edition of Calhoun-Sonoraville should be no different as each team wants to win not only for bragging rights but for what it could do for them in the subregion standings.
Calhoun (6-1, 2-0 subregion) will host rival Sonoraville (4-4, 1-2) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at The Reeve as the Jackets are looking to set themselves up for a de facto subregion championship game the following week at Bremen while the Phoenix are trying to make up some ground after two tough losses to Bremen and Adairsville have them at the No. 4 spot in 6-AAA South currently.
Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said these are the kinds of games the players and community look forward to each season.
“When you go into a rivalry week, it’s really a good week for the kids and the town,” said Lamb. “We know it’s going to be a big crowd and a great atmosphere, and I think it’s going to be two good teams going at it. There is a lot of respect between our two schools, and we are looking forward to a great night of football in Calhoun and Gordon County.”
Sonoraville coach Denver Pate echoed those remarks about what it means for his team to get ready for a game like this.
“I think it makes this game even more fun to be a part of,” said Pate. “To be able to line up on the other side of the football from another player that you’ve probably played with at some point in your life only adds to the excitement.”
The Jackets come into the game following a week off after their 42-16 win over Adairsville on Oct. 6. Lamb said the bye week was a success for his team after three days of practice, some good rest, conditioning and getting a head start on game-planning for Sonoraville.
The Phoenix have a bit of a bad taste in their mouth coming into the week off another close loss to Adairsville last Friday, 35-25, despite battling back and having a chance to pull within one possession late. It was their third loss of the season by 10 points or less, two of those coming in subregion play. Pate said his team never quits, and they have to keep that same attitude going forward to make sure those close losses start to turn into hard-fought wins.
“Our kids are expected to compete to the final whistle,” said Pate. “They are competitors, and they play with relentless effort each play. Our kids are not losers…they can’t stand to lose, but at the same time, sometimes you have to go through disappointments in life to truly reap the rewards of success. We will continue to compete and hopefully have a break or two go our way to get back on track.”
Calhoun currently sits atop the 6-AAA South standings at 2-0 tied with Bremen as the two teams appear headed for a big showdown in the final week of subregion play. Sonoraville is behind Calhoun, Bremen and Adairsville in the standings, but an upset win over the Jackets on Friday would turn the standings upside down a bit. Even if the Phoenix finish as the No. 4 seed in the subregion, they will have a chance to play for a State playoff berth in the final week of the regular season against the No. 1 team from 6-AAA North.
Both teams enter Friday with the ability to put up big numbers on offense as Calhoun quarterback Gavin Gray has thrown for 1,500-plus yards and 14 touchdowns, running back Zack Fuller has rushed for close to 600 yards and nine touchdowns and four different receivers have caught touchdown passes for the Jackets. Sonoraville boasts a trio of playmakers as well with senior quarterback Patrick Moore, senior running back Tristan Key and senior slot receiver Trenton Daniel spearheading the Phoenix offensive attack. Key is coming off a 200-plus yard, three-touchdown rushing game against Adairsville last Friday.
“Sonoraville is a good team, and they’ve been in several close games that they could’ve won,” said Lamb. “We’ve got to find a way to contain their playmakers, Moore, Key and Daniel. They really make them go. Their defense is very aggressive too and flying around playing well.”
Pate said his team is preparing for another strong Calhoun team that they must play error-free against.
“Calhoun is a well-disciplined team,” said Pate. “I have the utmost respect for what Coach Lamb has built over there and how they play the game. I expect them to be physical on both lines of scrimmage, and we have to match their intensity to be successful.”
Calhoun has never lost to Sonoraville as they lead the series 9-0. The Jackets have shut out their rival three times in the last four meetings as well, including a 34-0 victory at Sonoraville last year.
Both defenses have shown playmaking ability at different points of the season with the Jackets having a slight edge in experience with more returning starters from last year’s team, but Sonoraville’s group, which has had multiple injuries to overcome through the first half of the season, has continued to grow every week.