The Calhoun Yellow Jackets (10-1) are on to the second round of the GHSA State Football Playoffs for the 19th year in-a-row after a 38-10 win over the Morgan County Bulldogs (7-4) Friday at Hal Lamb Field at Phil Reeve Stadium. The victory is head coach Clay Stephenson’s first in the playoffs.
“I’m so happy for these kids,” Stephenson said. “We were very excited ... to get to host a playoff game. It was very important to those seniors going back a couple of weeks ago to the Haralson (County) game to get that win so we could host and I told them this was their night to enjoy it. They came out and played for four quarters and got the win.”
Calhoun got behind the 8-ball right out of the gates, as Morgan County’s Seth Robertson returned the opening kickoff 88 yards to put the Bulldogs up 7-0.
Moments later on the first play of scrimmage, Calhoun junior running back Jerrian Hames picked up blocks and streaked 66 yards to put the Yellow Jackets on the Morgan County 1-yard line. Two plays later, Hames was standing in the end zone.
The three-play, 67-yard opening drive took just 52 seconds and the game was tied 7-7 with 10:54 left to play in the first quarter.
“It was a bang-bang start and, all of the sudden, it’s back to 0-0 basically,” Stephenson said. “We made a mistake on the kickoff, but we made up for it and then we could restart everything and go at it from there.”
Hames would carry the ball 28 times on the evening for 154 yards and three scores, the latter two from 5 and 7 yards, respectively.
“My lineman just opened it up for me,” Hames said. “We knew coming in (the Morgan County Bulldogs) were fast and we tried to keep it away from No. 4 (Robertson), but we made a mistake kicking to him. He took it back, but that gave us some motivation to get out there and score fast.”
Hames and senior starting quarterback Jake Morrow proved to be an effective tandem once again, as Morrow threw 6-14 for 111 yards and two third-quarter touchdown passes.
The Yellow Jackets did not turn the ball over once in the 28-point victory.
Defense stepping up
Calhoun’s defense shut down and shut out Morgan County after the first quarter. Bulldogs’ senior quarterback Trenton Folds was held to 9-25 passing for 86 yards.
“We were very worried (the Morgan County Bulldogs) have so much speed as they showed on the return,” Stephenson said. “With their speed and the quarterback that can throw it 60-70 yards, it was very important to make sure we got some pressure on him, but cover the back end and they did that very well.”
The Calhoun Yellow Jackets prepare for a Sweet 16 showdown with a familiar foe in the Peach County Trojans. Last year, Peach County eliminated the Yellow Jackets at Phil Reeve Stadium 22-7 to advance to the 3A state championship.
This year, the venue will change as Calhoun will travel to Peach County High School in Fort Valley.
“We’ll start watching film on Sunday as coaches and try to come up with a plan,” Stephenson said. “Nothing’s different for the kids. We’re going to show up Monday morning and work out ... and practice Monday through Thursday and show up on Friday and try to execute.”
Peach County shut out Brantley County 19-0 to start its playoff journey. Kickoff is scheduled for Friday at a time to be determined.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Stephenson said. “Calhoun’s always traveled well and I know the fans will be jacked for next week. They’ll take our home crowd to there.”