The defending Class AA state champion Jackets visit long-time northern rival Dalton on Friday night fresh off a 42-35 victory that was won on a 50-second drive with under a minute left in the fourth quarter over a very talented Ridgeland team.
The Panthers were down 35-27 before scoring and then tying the game on a two-point conversion with 55 seconds remaining in regulation. That’s when Calhoun senior quarterback Taylor Lamb led his team on an extremely efficient drive that was capped off with the game-winning 1-yard TD pass to tight end Sebastian Willer with four seconds remaining.
“Our goal was to get in field goal range, but Taylor did an outstanding job leading us down the field,” said Calhoun coach Hal Lamb. “And we still had three timeouts left which really helped, plus our offense is set up like a two-minute drill all the time which is a bonus.
“That’s why we schedule those tough games early is to put our guys in a position that they might be in later in the year.”
Taylor Lamb had a big night in the opener, going 27-of-38 for 283 yards and two TDs. Running back Alex Urbano had three rushing TDs.
Now, the Jackets get right back to work as they face Class AAAA Dalton in another tough non-region game early in the season. The Catamounts will have had two weeks to prepare for Calhoun as they opened the season on Aug. 24 with a 21-19 win over Ringgold.
Lamb said Dalton would be another stiff test for his bunch.
“Dalton scares me a good bit, not only because they’re well-coached, but also because they’ve had two weeks to get ready for us,” said Lamb. “They’ve got some really good players, and they really know what they’re doing.”
The Jackets victory was somewhat marred by the loss of junior receiver Andrew Haynes, who suffered a broken leg against Ridgeland, and will miss the rest of the regular season and most likely the playoffs assuming Calhoun is back there.
Along with the injury, Lamb said the film from the win over Ridgeland showed some more negatives.
“Defensively, we didn’t play as well as we would’ve liked,” said Lamb. “I know we have nine new starters, but what was the most disappointing is they did a lot of good things during the week at practice, but didn’t do them in the game. I guess we’ll just chalk that one up to inexperience and go back to work this week to get them ready.”
The Jackets are 6-34-1 all time against Dalton, but have had much more success in recent years. They have won four of the six meetings since the rivalry was renewed in 2006, including the last three in a row.
Lamb said there are several things his team has to do on Friday against Dalton in order to be successful.
“We have to continue to make sure we don’t turn the ball over,” said Lamb. “It was very surprising (against Ridgeland) that neither team had a turnover, and we would like to keep that going. We had way too many penalties in the first game, and didn’t play smart at times as well.
“I think if we continue to play hard, though, we should continue to play well.”
Calhoun got off to a big start on offense last week, putting up big numbers against a tough Ridgeland team.
The defense has to improve, after allowing the Panthers to get outside with their speed in the running game. That defense will be tested once again this week with a talented Dalton offense.
Even so, the Jackets are the better team in this one much the same as they’ve been the better team against Dalton the last few years. Calhoun is tested early in the game, but will pull away in the second half.
Calhoun 38, Dalton 17