It’s hard to fit a whole town into one high school football stadium, but that (or something close to that) will be attempted to be done on Friday at Phil Reeve Stadium.
The Calhoun Yellow Jackets welcome the Sonoraville Phoenix at 7:30 p.m. for a local rivalry showdown that happens to also be the Region 6-AAA opener for both teams. Both Calhoun head coach Hal Lamb and Sonoraville head coach Denver Pate said they know what kind of excitement and reaction this game will draw on Friday.
“I think it’s going to be an excellent atmosphere Friday,” said Lamb. “Both communities support their teams very well so we expect standing room only. It is always a good rivalry when we get together so we expect a hard fought game.”
“You know what to expect when you go to Calhoun,” said Pate. “The atmosphere will be electric. Playing a local team in a region game only adds to the excitement.”
The Jackets (2-0) are off to a fast start to the season as they have two solid non-region wins, defeating Ridgeland in the opener on Aug. 16 and then dominating Therrell, 52-6, at The Reeve last Friday. In the win, several players contributed as Calhoun got off to a fast start to lead 35-6 after one quarter and that allowed the reserves to get a lot of action. Zack Fuller highlighted the stats with three rushing touchdowns, and Bralin Barton had a couple electric plays in the return game, including a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“It was a great home opener for our team,” Lamb said of the win over Therrell. “I thought we handled the situation very well. Therrell had a few starters out including their starting QB so we could have gone through the motions knowing one of their best players was out, but we didn’t and I was pleased.”
Sonoraville (1-1) have looked solid at times in both of their non-region contests so far as they defeated Model 21-14 in their opener a couple weeks ago and fell at Darlington 20-0 last Friday with all of the Tigers’ points coming in the second half. Pate said the defense was the highlight of the night as they kept the Phoenix in it with stout play and forcing turnovers.
Friday’s game marks the official start of Calhoun’s attempt at making state history in 2018 as they play their region opener. They are looking to break the Georgia state record for consecutive titles previously held by Lincoln County, and they can do that this year by hoisting the 6-AAA crown for what would be their 18th straight. First up is Sonoraville, who Lamb said his team has to play their ‘A’ Game against with the Phoenix being a very capable and talented team.
“Sonoraville is very well coached and plays extremely hard which means they are a very dangerous team,” said Lamb.
Pate and the Phoenix are aiming to get off to a stellar start in the region as they are looking to rebound from missing the playoffs last season for the first time in four years. He said he expects Calhoun to be as tough a task as they have been over the past decade-plus.
“They are exactly you would think a Calhoun team would be,” said Pate. “They have been balanced offensively and very sound defensively.”
Calhoun has owned the series since it started back in 2006, winning all 10 previous meetings, including a 41-3 victory last season at home over the Phoenix. Lamb said taking care of the fundamentals will be important against a Sonoraville team looking to pull the upset against the defending Class AAA state champion Jackets.
“Taking care of the ball and winning the turnover battle is key,” said Lamb. “We need to be sound in all phases of the game.”
Pate said that his team having an advantage in time of possession and making offensive drives count is what they need to do in order to have success on Friday.
“We must be able to sustain drives offensively,” said Pate. “We need to keep their offense on the sidelines as much as possible and to do that you must execute offensively. We have to also win the battles up front and eliminate turnovers.”