The defending Class AA state champion Calhoun Yellow Jackets dismantled Wesleyan last Friday in the first round of the state playoffs by 42-10 score.
That impressive win will quickly move into the rearview mirror, however, as the Jackets (11-0) now prepare for an explosive Washington-Wilkes team in their second-round matchup at Phil Reeve Stadium on Friday.
Washington-Wilkes (10-1) was equally as impressive in the first round as they dominated Bowdon, 66-28. The best word to describe the Tigers is explosive as they’ve put at least 40 points on the board nine times this season.
“They rely a lot on their speed, and they’ve got a lot of it,” said Calhoun coach Hal Lamb. “They like to get their speed and athletes in space, and that’s what their offense and defense is based on.
“They are a spread team and very well-coached so we’ve definitely got our hands full.”
The Jackets looked pretty explosive themselves in the first round, with both the running and passing game working effectively. Calhoun quarterback Taylor Lamb threw for 238 yards on 17-of-22 passes with two TDs through the air. He also ran for two scores as the Jackets rushing game accounted for 150 yards of their own. Alex Urbano also ran for two TDs.
Add to that a solid defensive performance with two turnovers forced, and Calhoun looked like they were clicking on all cylinders. Hal Lamb said that performance, along with finally getting over the hump and winning the state title last year after three previous runner-up finishes, has the Jackets playing with a lot of confidence.
“After looking at the film (from the Wesleyan game), I think we played well in all aspects of the game,” said Lamb. “It’s great to get off to a good start in the playoffs, but this is a new week now.
“I think to get that state title was a confidence builder for the program. I think we’re our guys are playing with a little more confidence because they know what we can do after last year.”
Practicing for another game this week marks the eighth straight season the Jackets have still been alive in the playoffs when Thanksgiving rolls around, a benchmark that shows you’ve had a great season.
“When you’re practicing on Thanksgiving, you know you’re a prett good team,” said Lamb. “Back during my first few years here, it was one of our big goals to still be playing at Thanksgiving, and now that we’ve done that several years in a row, it’s very good to see.
“We’re going try to keep the schedule as normal as possible for the kids this week. We’ll obviously change what time we practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but everything else will stay pretty much the same. We might spend a few extra minutes here and there working on certain things, but no big changes to the schedule.”
The game, which will be the first time these two schools have ever met on the football field, will come down to which team holds down the other’s playmakers according to Lamb.
“We’ve got to contain their speed and not give up the big play,” said Lamb.
“And we can’t turn the ball over which is an area we’ve been good in so far. If we can do those things and make the plays when they’re there to be made, we should be in good shape.”
The winner will move on to face the winner of the Brooks County-McIntosh County matchup. If Brooks County and Calhoun face off in what is already being hyped up as a huge matchup, a coin toss will be used to determine home field.
The Jackets looked very impressive on Friday night, downing a formidable Wesleyan team.
But the road gets tougher from here on out.
Washington-Wilkes can put up points in bunches as they demonstrated in their first-round win over Bowdon.
But the Calhoun defense has been much improved as the season has gone on. This will be their toughest challenge since Week 3 against Carrollton.
Both offenses boast several solid playmakers so it’s going to come down to which team imposes their style and will on the other.
And Calhoun’s gotten into a good habit of doing that a lot come playoff time.
The Jackets should march on.
Calhoun 35, Washington-Wilkes 21