And the opening assignment in that isn’t exactly going to be easy.
The Yellow Jackets will welcome the Ridgeland Panthers to town on Friday for the regular season opener at Phil Reeve Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be a tremendous test to start out with,” said Calhoun coach Hal Lamb. “It’s going to be two good teams in a playoff-type atmosphere. They are well-coached and very athletic so we’re going to have our hands full.”
The Jackets got a chance to get some game-type action in two weeks ago when they scrimmaged the Rome Wolves on the road at Barron Stadium.
Calhoun looked impressive in the scrimmage on both sides of the ball, coming away with a 31-0 win. Senior quarterback Taylor Lamb was stellar, completing 18-of-21 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He also rushed for a TD.
Running back/receiver Tydus Curtis caught the two TD passes on 2-yard and 52-yard receptions.
The defense, which replaced 10 of 11 starters from last year’s team, was also solid, shutting out the Wolves and forcing several fumbles.
After the scrimmage, Lamb said the Jackets waisted no time beginning preparation for Ridgeland, using the off-week as an extra week for game-planning for the Panthers.
“Last Monday, we started getting ready for them,” said Lamb.
“What we know is they are very big up front and have some good athletes in the backfield. They are based out of the Wing-T on offense, and run a 3-3 defense with athletes all over the field.”
Lamb also said Ridgeland has one of the best players in the state in senior defensive back Vonn Bell. Bell, one of the top safeties in the country according to several recruiting services, has offers from almost every college team in the country, including Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Clemson and Auburn, among many others.
The Jackets, who are looking for their 12th straight reigon title this season, are 2-1 all-time against the Panthers, with the most recent two games against them in 2008 and 2009 going heavily in favor of Calhoun. Ridgeland got its only win in the series in 1989 with a 7-0 win.
Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis has built the Panthers into one of the most consistent programs in Northwest Georgia as they have been to the state playoffs each of the last six seasons.
With the game being so early in the season, Lamb said the team that plays the most fundamentally sound will come out on top.
“Obviously we can’t turn the ball over,” said Lamb. “With it being an opening game, it will probably be a little sloppy on both sides so I think the team that makes the least mistakes will win it.”
The Jackets return to the field with a very different cast of characters than last year’s team that brought home the Class AA state title.
But don’t confuse lack of experience with lack of talent.
With it only being a scrimmage, it’s tough to say too much definitively about the Calhoun offense, but they look as if they could be even more explosive than last year.
And the defense looked solid as well despite breaking in a bunch of new starters.
Ridgeland is a very good team, but Calhoun just has too much talent and is too disciplined to lose this game.
Calhoun 35, Ridgeland 20