Class AA Title Game (2:30 p.m.)
Calhoun (14-0) vs. Jefferson (13-1)
Overview: Defending state champion Calhoun has a long history in the state final, winning one in 1952 and reaching now five consecutive and six of the last eight. The Yellow Jackets have won region every year since 2001 and have reached at least the quarterfinals nine of those 12 seasons. This is less familiar territory for Jefferson, a state finalist in only 1975 and ‘77 and who has reached the second round in 2003, and ‘07-09. In ‘08 and ‘09, the Dragons were started 11-0, before losing in the second round to Lovett and Buford, respectively.
Calhoun season: The Jackets are looking to complete their second unbeaten season since losing the 2010 final to Buford. They’ve outscored opponents by five touchdowns on average this season with four shutouts, including consecutive ones over Murray County (69-0), Armuchee (53-0) and Model (35-0).
Jefferson season: The Dragons started tentatively by losing 22-7 to Commerce, before ripping off 13 straight wins, including eight in a row when surrendering 10 or fewer points. The Region 8-AA champions dominated their first two state playoff contenders, but needed triple overtime to survive Fitzgerald 53-51 in the quarterfinal and Greater Atlanta Christian 42-14 in the semifinal.
Calhoun strength: Taylor Lamb keys a diverse offense with a good balance of passing and running. Jackets defenders have a knack for swarming to the ball and not surrendering long plays. The team hasn’t allowed more than two touchdowns in 11 games.
Jefferson strength: The Dragons are a running team first and foremost, but integrate the pass with play action. They have a nice mix of inside-outside (running), but pitch and pass for variety. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs is a solid runner and a very efficient passer.
Calhoun top players: QB Taylor Lamb (committed to South Alabama) has passed for 3,228 yards and 34 TDs… WR Josh Barnes has 84 catches for 1,009 yards and 5 TDs… RB Alex Urbano has 1,279 yards and 23 TDs rushing… DB Donnell Anthony has 90 tackles and eight interceptions… LBs Jackson Brumlow and Will Conley have 115 and 108 tackles, respectively.
Jefferson top players: QB Bryant Shirreffs has run for 1,233 yards and 18 TDs, as well as passed for 2,181 yards and 17 TDs to seven receivers… RBs Tristen Jackson and Sammy Williams have run for 16 and 13 TDs, respectively… WR McKay Dickens has 523 yards and 5 TDs receiving… LB Wesley Simonton has 181 tackles, 26 for loss, and 7 1/2 sacks… LB Kody McDonald has 166 stops.
On Calhoun: “They’re very efficient in their passing game, but they’re also willing to run the football as well. They’re definitely not just a one-dimensional football team. After playing for the last four (titles), they’re more than capable of winning a state championship.” — Lamar County coach Franklin Stephens, whose team lost 21-14 to Calhoun in the semifinals.
On Jefferson: “They have leaders on both sides of the ball, but not really any week links. They’re a good picture of a team because they function well as a unit, and everyone plays their role with great efficiency. They’re pretty solid everywhere,” — Greater Atlanta Christian coach Tim Hardy, whose team lost 42-14 to Jefferson in the semifinals.
AJC pick: Calhoun 34, Jefferson 10.