The Calhoun Middle Football team flashed its explosive, quick-striking offense and capped off a perfect, undefeated season by capturing the Bartow Gordon Middle School Athletic Association Region championship in a 35-6 win over Cartersville Middle School on Thursday, Oct 19.
Calhoun (8-0) head coach Eric Rigney credited the title win to a complete team effort that his squad has utilized in each contest this season.
“It feels really good to pull this one out, because I know how hard they have worked for it,” Rigney said. “We have played at a high level all season. We just have a talented group of athletes, from the linemen to the kickers and special teams unit to the skill players, everything has really come together for us over the last few weeks.”
The Hurricanes (6-2) arrived at The Reeve with an agile, run-heavy offensive scheme that was captained by quarterback Brynen Williams. Although Williams was able to produce with his legs and rack up a handful of first downs during an opening, clock-killing possession, the Yellow Jacket defense stomped out the threat when Brendan Gray snagged a Williams toss for an interception.
“Cartersville is always known as having a great athlete at the quarterback position, and Williams is a player that has improved considerably since the last time we played them,” Rigney said. “So we challenged our defense to contain him, and I was proud of the way our guys were physical and made stops.”
Calhoun’s offense didn’t waste any time getting on the board. The Jackets designed a play to get the ball in the hands of playmaker Christopher Lewis on the first drive, who slashed through the Cartersville defense and sprinted 73 yards for a touchdown.
The Jacket defense dominated the trenches to pick up a fourth down stop to open the second quarter of play, which cued up Robert Warner to punch in a two-yard score.
Calhoun’s only costly miscue on the offensive side of the ball took place on a botched reverse play right before halftime.
Williams was able to sneak in a four-yard rushing touchdown in the closing seconds of the half for the Hurricanes’ only points of the afternoon.
The third quarter of play was largely defined by two impactful scores from Calhoun’s offense that padded the lead and put the team firmly in control of the game.
The first occurred when quarterback Christian Lewis rolled out and found Mason Green in the end zone for a four-yard receiving touchdown. Green was also effective running the ball, totaling 30 ground yards on a handful of attempts.
The second third-quarter touchdown featured a swift 48-yard rush into the painted area on a pitch to dynamic receiver Cole Speer. Speer also tacked on a key 19-yard reception earlier in the game.
The Jackets kept the momentum rolling when Blaze Hammett picked off Williams to open the final quarter. Shortly after the forced turnover, Calhoun extended its lead to its final tally of 35 when Christopher Lewis coasted 19 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes. He proved difficult to bring down all evening, registering more than 100 rushing yards.
“On offense, I feel like we didn’t perform up to our potential in that first half and that falls on me,” Rigney said. “However, we made the necessary adjustments at the break. We came out more aggressive in order to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers, and we were able to get rolling and never look back.”
The Path to the Championship
Calhoun’s road to the BGMSAA region championship game featured a stop at Woodland Middle School, where the Jackets claimed a commanding 55-6 victory over the Wildcats in the final regular season game.
It was a torrid start on offense for the Yellow Jackets, with Speer housing a 48-yard rushing score on the first play from scrimmage. Gray added onto the lead with a 20-yard scoop-and-score off of a Wildcat fumble. The Jackets tacked on another six when Christian Lewis muscled in a one-yard rushing touchdown before the quarter expired.
Christian Lewis also opened the second quarter with a one-yard quarterback keeper for another score. On the next possession, Green leapt into the scoresheet with a 31-yard touchdown run.
In the second half, Kaleb Ray contributed a 22-yard rushing touchdown to increase Calhoun’s total. Corbin Fuller got in on the action with an 11-yard scoring run. The win was punctuated by a 53-yard rushing touchdown from C.J. Hawkins.
To have a shot at the title, it was also crucial that Calhoun picked up a win at Super Saturday. The Jackets drew Cass, and racked up plenty of points yet again to prevail 44-8 against the Colonels.
Robert Warner cracked open the scoring with a one-yard rushing touchdown in the first. He followed that up by rumbling 31-yards for a score after the Jackets pounced on a Cass fumble.
Speer pitched in a receiving touchdown in the second quarter to push the advantage to 21-0. The Lewis brothers connected for the next Calhoun touchdown, when Christian completed a 27-yard pass to Christopher in the end zone for six.
Dylan Faulkner took advantage of his quarterback snaps by linking up with Quin Smith for a 16-yard touchdown in the third. Fuller later rumbled for a one-yard score to help seal the win.
Mason Walker chipped in the final two points for Calhoun by knocking a Cass ballcarrier backwards over the goal line for a safety to help the Jackets secure its showdown with the Hurricanes.
—Andrew Craig contributed to this report.