The Calhoun Yellow Jackets identified the period from the end of last season through the completion of Spring Practice as “Separation Season.” According to head coach Clay Stephenson, it was a time for the team and individual players to try to show separation from where they were a few months ago to where they are now, to show separation from the competition on their own team and most importantly to separate themselves from their opponents.
Following Friday’s Black and Gold Spring Game to wrap up Spring Practice, Stephenson declared “Separation Season” a success.
The Jackets got a chance to put on display the progress they have made for a large crowd at Hal Lamb Field at Phil Reeve Stadium on Friday as they competed in their annual Spring Game with the Black Team finishing atop the Gold by a 28-7 score.
Stephenson said the contest went about as well as was expected, considering the two-week time frame of Spring Practice to squeeze in as much as they could in a short amount of time.
“We got what we expected from the game…You know you aren’t going to have the best execution, but we got great effort from everyone, the starters to the backups,” said Stephenson. “Spring is tough, especially on the coaching staff with us having coaches doing other sports and not having all the kids out for the entire two weeks because of spring sports still going on. So we knew it would be tough, but our kids did an awesome job making the most of the short time. And credit to our coaches too. They were able to get everything done that we wanted to. We were pleased with the game tonight and the two weeks of practice overall.”
Stephenson added that another highlight from Friday’s game was seeing so many young Yellow Jackets fans get a chance to participate in the pregame run out through the large, inflatable helmet and onto the field.
“The first thing we wanted to do tonight was see as many kids here as we could get to run through the helmet and see what it’s like to be a part of this team on a game day,” said Stephenson. “That’s what this Calhoun Football is built on is reaching out to the younger kids and showing them we want them to be a part of our program going forward. We want to do that as much as possible so that was a big highlight for me.”
As far as the game itself, the Black Team had the upper hand for much of the first half as they were able to put together three scoring drives and hold the opposing Gold Team off the scoreboard over the first two quarters. The first points went on the board on the Black’s first drive of the night as they went on a long drive that culminated with a five-yard touchdown pass from Trey Townsend to Camran Dodd. Carlos Orozco added the extra point.
Following a forced turnover in the form of a Dodd interception of the Gold Team on the next drive, the Black Team once again made the most of their possession as they drove for a score as Gage Leonard weaved in and out of the defense for a 29-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0 following a Sergio Sanchez extra point.
The Black defense did the job once again as they came up with their second interception of the night a little while later as Ben Williams picked off a pass at his own 19 on a fourth-down attempt. The pick followed a solid drive by the Gold that was highlighted by Caden Williams taking a short pass from Christian Lewis and darting 49 yards down the sideline to put his side within striking distance of the end zone.
The Black Team converted the turnover into points once again as Lewis connected with Brendan Gray on a 60-yard touchdown pass to close the first half and make it 21-0 after the Orozco point after touchdown. Gray had the pass initially deflect off his pads into the air, but then gathered the catch and outran the Gold defense to the end zone.
The second half went quickly as the clock continued to run and a lot of fresh faces got a chance to put their efforts onto film following many of the starters coming out.
The Gold Team got on the board in the third quarter on a successful drive that featured multiple passes for first downs by Townsend and ended with an impressive 31-yard touchdown run by Williams. The score was 21-7 following another solid extra point by Sanchez.
The Black Team put an exclamation mark on the game with a scoring drive to close the contest as Lewis led the charge at quarterback on the march with couple nice first-down passes, and Corbin Fuller was the third Jackets’ running back to find paydirt for the evening with an eight-yard touchdown run to finish the game off. Orozco sent it through the uprights for another successful PAT to bring the score to 28-7.
The offense showed flashes of explosiveness as they finished out their first Spring under new offensive coordinator Chris Boden, who took over for veteran Michael Davis. Davis moved on to the same role at Rabun County following last season after almost two decades on the job at Calhoun. Stephenson said there is still a long way to go on that side of the ball after just a short time to learn a new offense under a new coach, but he said he was excited at the progress they made during the Spring.
“We knew it was going to be tough offensively for our guys to try to pick up a new offense in nine practice, but for the most part, I feel like they picked it up well,” said Stephenson. “We need more reps to fully pick things up, but overall we felt good. We just need to keep things rolling during the summer.
“It was tough on the quarterbacks also picking up the new offense in two weeks. Trey got a lot of reps with Christian still playing baseball, but once he got in there this week, he did well to pick things up. Both did a good job making plays tonight. They made some big throws and led some really good drives.”
The Jackets will now turn their attention to the all-important summer months where strength and conditioning will take center stage as they prepare for the 2021 season.
“Summer is very important…everyone knows that, the players and the coaches,” said Stephenson. “We’ve divided up the year into different ‘seasons.’ Our end of the year banquet last year to now was ‘Separation Season.’ Now, we move right from that into the ‘Summer Season.’ It’s probably the most important time of the year with so much lifting and conditioning. We know the guys will come ready for it. We’ve got a good plan together, and we’re looking forward to seeing the progress our team can make in the next few months.”
The Jackets are coming off a trip to the Elite Eight in their first year of competition in Class AAAAA in 2020. They will open Fall practice in late July and then start the regular season on Aug. 20 when they host rival Dalton at 7:30 p.m. at The Reeve.