The road to the state championship game at the Georgia Dome has become a well-traveled one for the Calhoun football team.
In 2012, the Yellow Jackets became the second team in state history to reach five consecutive finals, second only to Buford, which played in its sixth straight title game last year.
The only blemish on Calhoun’s domination has been a 1-4 record in those games. The Yellow Jackets won the Class AA title in 2011 with a 27-24 overtime victory against Buford, which beat Calhoun in the final the three previous seasons. Last year, the Yellow Jackets lost to Jefferson 31-14 in the AA final.
“I told the team the other day that our goal is to win the state championship every year,” Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said. “That’s not going to change. We’ve been fortunate enough to get there the last five years, but we’ve been unfortunate just to have one [championship]. We’re kind of tired of getting there and not winning. To look at it the other way, a lot of teams would just like to get there. But it’s expected here. Our goals every year are to win the region championship and win the state championship. And those goals aren’t going to change.”
And Calhoun will be among the favorites to return to the championship game this season. The Yellow Jackets return 14 starters, including eight from an offense that averaged 42.6 points per game and scored 49 points or more six times.
The biggest loss is at quarterback, where the Yellow Jackets must replace Taylor Lamb, a first-team all-state player who passed for 7,193 yards and 76 touchdowns the past two seasons. Lamb, the coach’s nephew, has signed with Appalachian State. Fields Chapman, a rising senior, is expected to be the starter in 2013.
“He’s been the backup for three years, so it’s his turn,” Hal Lamb said of Chapman. “We’re going to give him the first shot at it. He started on defense for us and got hurt in the semifinal game. He’s our emotional leader, and he didn’t get to play in the championship game, and that was a big blow to our defense. He knows how to play the game. He’s been waiting his turn, and he’s had a great offseason. So we’re looking forward to him taking over.”
First-team all-state wide receiver Tydus Curtis and honorable mention players Alex Urbano (running back) and Katrova Dew (center) return to what once again should be a potent offense.
The Yellow Jackets concluded spring practice last week, and Lamb liked what he saw. That’s probably not good news for the rest of Class AA.
“I thought it went great,” Lamb said of spring practice. “I think we got a lot accomplished. We were able to get all of our players out there for at least five days, and that’s the first time since I’ve been there. So we were fortunate enough to get all those guys and get some practice in with those guys. We had a great spring. We stayed away from key injuries, and we got better in a lot of areas.
“We’ve got a tremendous amount of depth, probably the best depth we’ve had in a long time. There was a lot of competition for a lot of spots, so we feel good about where we are.”
Calhoun Yellow Jackets
2012 record: 14-1, 7-0 in Region 7-AA, lost to Jefferson 31-14 in the Class AA championship game.
Starters returning: 8 offense, 6 defense
Key players lost: QB Taylor Lamb, WR Josh Barnes, DL Sebastian Willer, CB Donnell Anthony
Key players returning: RB Alex Urbano, WR Tydus Curtis, C Katrova Dew, NG Dustyn Harris, CB J.P. Parker, OL Nathan Walraven, OL Truett Moss, WR Andrew Haynes
Aug. 30 – at Ridgeland
Sept. 6 – Dalton
Sept. 13 – at Carrollton
Sept. 20 – Dade County
Sept. 27 – Coosa
Oct. 11 – at Pepperell
Oct. 18 – at Murray County
Oct. 25 – Armuchee
Nov. 1 – at Model
Nov. 8 – Chattooga
Outlook: Calhoun has won 12 consecutive region titles, and it will be a major upset if the Yellow Jackets don’t increase the streak to 13 in 2013. Calhoun hasn’t lost a game against a region opponent since 2001, and it outscored its opponents 336-41 in region play last year. One key will be at quarterback, where Fields Chapman will be stepping in for the graduating Taylor Lamb. Six starters return to a defense that allowed 15.2 points per game last season but gave up 30 or more points four times.