Written on the paper were the results of an on-line pole which was printed by the Rome News-Tribune in January stating that 78-percent of voters did not think the Yellow Jackets would make it back to the championship game this season.
Calhoun proved those 78-percent wrong as they beat the No. 1 ranked team in the state 27-14 and held one of the top running backs in the nation, Isaiah Crowell, to just 95 yards and one touchdown, after he rushed for more than 300-yards and scored five times the previous week.
“It is very satisfying [to make it to the Dome again],” said Lamb. “A lot of people did not think we would make it back to this game and we are excited to be there.”
After beating what was considered this year’s top team, the Jackets are now rewarded with facing a familiar foe in green and gold, an opponent that has been a thorn in Calhoun’s side over the last two seasons and for much longer to every other team in AA.
Buford, which rolled over Lovett 53-13 in their semi-final game, has won the championship seven times since 2000, including the last three.
In both 2008 and 2009 Buford’s bite proved to be stronger than Calhoun’s sting, as the Wolves knocked out the Jackets both years at the Georgia Dome.
In 2008 Calhoun entered the championship game as heavy underdogs and played like it, as the Wolves won handedly
The Jackets entered the 2009 championship as the favorite but Buford shut down all-State Player of the Year Da’Rick Rogers to eke out a 13-10 victory.
This season Calhoun will head into the championship game with a better record and a win against the only team that beat Buford, but will still be considered an underdog.
The Wolves are ranked ahead of the Jackets in most polls. According to MaxPreps.com, which does not separate the teams by class, Buford is considered the fourth best team in the state and Calhoun is ranked eighth.
“Buford is always going to be the favorite as long as they keep winning championships,” said Lamb. “Buford is a top-notch program, is very well coached, and has big, strong athletes. They should be the favorite.”
Buford’s offense is based out of the I-formation and they run a 50-defense.
Leading the Wolves this year are Alex Ross, Seon Jones, Dominique Swope, Dillon Lee, Rick LeGrant and Vadal Alexander.
Ross, Buford’s quarterback, has thrown for more than 1,600 yards this season.
“He is a very good player, very heady, and throws the ball extremely well,” said Lamb. “He directs the offense like a coach wants him to.”
Running backs Jones and Swope have combined to rush for over 3,000 yards this season. Against Lovett in the semis Jones rushed for 186 yards and scored touchdowns of 22, 37, and 77 yards.
“You can’t just key in on one back against Buford,” said Lamb. “Each one brings something different to the table.”
Lee plays double-duty as a linebacker and tight end. Prior to their semi-final game, Lee led Buford with 63 total tackles defensively and had 11 receptions for 323 yards and a team high eight touchdowns on offense.
“He is a big kid and moves well,” said Lamb. “We have to keep an eye on him and know exactly where he is at, at all times.”
LaGrant anchors the Wolves’ defense and has accumulated 15 tackles for a loss with seven sacks. Alexander, at 6-foot-6 and 320-pounds, is a dominating factor for Buford on the offensive line.
“We played against Alexander last year,” said Lamb. “He is a big kid and I am sure a lot of colleges are looking at him and we will have our hands full.”
Calhoun’s Dustin Christian is coming off another big game. He stirred up some All-State consideration by outgaining Carver’s No. 1 state ranked back. Christian finished the game with 113 yards on 24 carries. He also leads Crowell in total yards for the season.
“He is my pick but I am a little bit biased,” said Lamb. “He is a very special player and shows up every week. We just need him to show us how good of a player he is for one more week. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody.”
Landon Curtis played one of his most consistent games of the season and was almost flawless. He completed 19-of-23 passes for 189 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for one.
The Calhoun defense outplayed Carver, allowing only 14 points to a team that put up at least 40 points six times this season.
The defense, led by linebackers Hunter Knight, Alex Kirby, Gabe Freeman, will play a big impact in the game at the Dome.
Both Buford and Calhoun are almost identical on points scored and points allowed per game. Calhoun is averaging 41 points offensively and has allowed 10.1 points per game defensive. Buford is averaging 38.4 on offense and 10.1 allowed on defense.
“We have to find ways to score points and not turn the ball over,” Lamb said.
Along with the championship, history will also be on the line this Friday as Buford looks to become only the second school to win four straight championships (West Rome 1982-85), and Calhoun looks to avoid becoming the second team to lose three straight (Adairsville 1969-72).
The game will kick off at 4:30 p.m.