The Jackets opened up fall practice with a two-hour morning session in shorts, shirts and helmets, and that day has been a long time coming according head coach Hal Lamb.
“We’re just ready,” said Lamb. “We’re mentally and physically ready to get going. And for the most part, everything went well. I think we were in decent shape as a team after the summer program.”
Coming off the 15-0 season and state championship, excitement within the program is at an all-time high, and that was proven once again on Monday when over 120 players showed up for the first day of fall practice. Lamb said that’s the most he’s ever had in his time at Calhoun.
“It’s very difficult on the staff because we really don’t have enough to handle 120, 130 kids,” said Lamb. “But we’ll manage. For a Class AA school, this is pretty good numbers.
“It’s encouraging to see these numbers because as coaches we’re in this to try to change kids’ lives, and the more kids you have, the more opportunities you have to do that.”
Despite still riding the high of last season’s magical run to the Georgia Dome and the state-title win over Buford after three unsuccessful tries in the previous three years, Lamb said it’s going to be important not to rest on last year’s accomplishments but rather keep working toward another memorable year.
“We know it’s time to turn the page,” said Lamb. “Last year’s team was a great role model for this team, and last year’s senior’s were such a good group, but we know this is a new team and a new year.”
The team returns several key players from last year’s squad, including quarterback Taylor Lamb, defensive back Donnell Anthony, receiver Josh Barnes and running backs Alex Urbano and Tydus Curtis, but still have a lot of holes left to fill from last year’s huge senior class. They lost 10 starters from last year’s defense.
The Jackets practiced in only helmets through Friday’s session and will put on the full pads for the first time on Monday. Lamb said the team has several things to accomplish before their first live action in a few weeks.
“The biggest thing we want to do is try to find some depth,” said Lamb. “Having more players than we’ve ever had will help with that, but we’ve just got to get everyone in the right spots.
“Hopefully, we can make a lot of improvements. We’ve put together a hectic schedule for us, the coaches, and for the players so we’ve got a lot of stuff to get done before the scrimmage and the start of the season.”
The Jackets will have just over two weeks of practice before strapping it up to face Rome High in their preseason scrimmage on Thursday, Aug. 16 just down the road in Rome at Barron Stadium.
The team will then have close to two full weeks to prepare for their regular-season opener when they host Ridgeland on Aug. 31 at Phil Reeve Stadium.