It was back to the basics this week for the Calhoun High School football team.
True, they are always working to get better at blocking, tackling, and other fundamental parts of the game but this past week, with their game against Cedartown canceled due to COVID, the Yellow Jackets had a lot of time to work at doing all the little things correctly that it takes to win football games.
And those little things — eliminating penalties, turnovers, missed assignments, etc. — are big things that head coach Clay Stephenson and his staff have been stressing to their players since the team started practicing and preparing for the current season in July.
There’s no question the Jackets are gearing up for a run at a 5A Region 7 championship. And they have playoff aspirations that include winning a 5A state championship.
But the key to doing all that or at least having a chance to do all that is playing good, clean football every week and like everyone in the state, that is what the Yellow Jacket players and coaches are working to achieve on a daily basis.
It just so happens that this week, with no game Friday, they had some extra time to work on everything they wanted to.
Through their first two games this summer, the Yellow Jackets have shown that they have the ability the score from anywhere on the field at any time.
Quarterback Christopher Lewis, running backs Gage Leonard and Caden Williams and receivers Cole Speer and Quin Smith along with a few of their backups, are big-time playmakers who just need a little bit of space to make something magical happen when the ball is in their hands.
Lewis has been accurate with his throwing through the first two weeks as Calhoun has been neither a run-oriented or pass-oriented team thus far because they are a squad looking to do both well. And they have done both very well to this point.
Senior left tackle Kendrick Kirby, sophomore left guard Christian Bell, senior center Tye Massey, senior right guard Jace Warren, and junior right tackle Brody Balliew on the offensive line have been solid in the early going, opening up holes for Leonard and Williams to run thru.
After not allowing a sack in Week One against Dalton, they did give up three last Friday to a McCallie defense that seemed to bring a lot of people every time the ball was snapped.
But Lewis still made good throws in a crowd of people and the Jackets just missed out on an early touchdown against the Blue Tornado when a long Lewis throw down the middle of the field to the goal line was swatted down by a defender on a great defense play.
On the play, the Calhoun receiver had gotten a few yards behind the defense and was ready to take the long pass to the house, but the leaping McCallie defender was able to knock the ball down at the last minute..
If there have been any bugaboos so far for the Yellow Jackets, it might be the starts of the games and field position.
Both Dalton and McCallie scored on their first drive of the game, meaning Calhoun was playing from behind right away.
“We’ve got to get off to better starts,” Calhoun head football coach Clay Stephenson said. “That’s something we’ve got to figure out and get better at.”
The offense has also done its thing to the tune of 62 points the first two games despite having to drive 3/4 of the field just about every time they’ve had a possession.
Dalton and McCallie both had excellent kickers who kept hammering the ball through the end zone on kickoffs, meaning the Jackets have been setting up shop at their own 25-yard line a lot.
Meanwhile on the other side, the Jackets have been trying to wreak havoc on their kickoffs, putting the ball on the far hash mark and then popping it up crossways, causing a jump ball situation around the other team’s 35. So far they have been able to come away with a couple of loose footballs, but both Dalton and McCallie didn’t have to go 75 yards when they did recover the ball.
So there have been ups and downs the first couple of weeks with probably the biggest downer of all being the fact that they didn’t get to play Friday night.
But this is a team working hard with everything that is important to them still in front of them. And the peaks and valleys are likely to continue because that is the way of just about every sports team on any journey.
But after two games, one scrimmage, and one unexpected open date, they definitely look like a group, whose best football is still in front of them.