By Craig Sager II
After collecting its third state title under head coach Hal Lamb (2011, 2014, 2017) last year, Calhoun’s loaded roster gets set to pursue the program’s first-ever back-to-back championships this upcoming season.
“We feel like we’ve got a really good nucleus returning for us,” said Lamb. “I’d say we probably have 90 percent of our skill guys back, which is always good. We’ve got to find a few linemen and some linemen need to step up, but we feel good about our kids coming back. But at the same sense, we can’t get complacent and we’ve got to continue to work and get better both individually, and as a group.”
A Commerce High School graduate and multi-sport standout, Lamb uses an approach to spring practice that allows for his players to participate in multiple sports like he did. Lamb never limited his talents to just football, also playing golf, tennis and basketball. His 52 points scored in a game is still a Commerce record. His wide receiver play earned him a scholarship to West Georgia, where he not only became a two-time all-conference football player, but earned MVP honors in tennis as well.
So while some schools organize scrimmages with other teams this spring, Lamb continues to encourage his players to participate in spring sports and uses spring practice (and a controlled Team A, Team B scrimmage) to stress the fundamentals.
“I’m not really a fan of playing other schools in the spring, mainly because I think you lose fundamentals,” explained Lamb. “If you’ve got eight days to prepare for a team, you are going to try to scheme and win the game and you lose the fundamental part, which to me is very important in spring practice, and we’re also going to miss a good amount of kids for baseball and track. Our situation is a little bit different at Calhoun, because we do encourage our kids to play different sports. A lot of them are playing baseball, a lot of them are running track. … It’s about fundamentals in the spring and that’s what we are going to focus on.”
This approach presented a challenge last spring when starting quarterback Gavin Gray was playing baseball and Calhoun had just one quarterback in grades 9-12 to lead it through spring ball. This year, however, Gray will be available after electing not to play baseball.
Star linebacker Davis Allen, however, is another multi-sport athlete on this year’s roster and is continuing to play baseball.
“He’s one of those three-sport guys,” said Lamb. “He’s a football player and he started on the basketball team and is a left-handed pitcher on the baseball team so he’s a really, really good athlete to be 6-foot-5, 220. I want to say that he’s got eight D1 offers already to play football. Some want him as a linebacker and some want him as a tight end, so he’s a very special player and a very special young man.”
While Calhoun may not be at its full capacity this spring, the Yellow Jackets will be on Aug. 16 as they open up Game 1 of the 2018 MetroPCS Corky Kell Classic against a motivated Ridgeland team.
“We are very honored to be in the Corky Kell Classic,” said Lamb. “There is a lot of tradition with the Corky Kell games. We’ve tried to get in the last several years and finally the door opened for us this year. And it is the opportunity to play a very good Ridgeland team.”
Lamb was an offensive coordinator for Upson-Lee when the Knights appeared in the 1995 (McEachern 9, Upson-Lee 7) and 1996 (Marietta 49, Upson-Lee 7) edition of the Corky Kell Classic. The last time Calhoun lost in a season opener was 2008, but still, Lamb is hoping to see his team start stronger than in years past.
“We’ve got to come out of the gate a little faster than we have in the past and that’s something we’re talking about,” said Lamb. “We did play a really good Dalton team and played really well, but then the next week we played a really good Cartersville team and didn’t. Our whole goal here at Calhoun High School is to peak at playoff time, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to play well the first week or two of the season. We have to play better than we have in the past and hopefully we can do that on Aug. 16.”