Calhoun Times

Calhoun’s season was one for the ages

- By Mike Tenney MTenney@CalhounTim­

What a storybook season for the Calhoun High School football team.

They were an action-packed team. A hard-hitting group that just kept pushing forward, for another first down, another score, whatever it took to keep playing until the schedule maker said there are no more games for not just Calhoun, but anyyone.

Some weeks had thrilling conclusion­s.

Some weeks were anti-climatic. Some weeks were predictabl­e.

But every game was fun. Well, the McCallie game wasn’t that fun, but other than that, every week was a whole lot of fun.

“It was an awesome season,” Calhoun head coach Clay Stephenson said. “It was a fun ride. Anytime you get to play 15 games, which is the maximum number you can play, you’ve had a great season and we were fortunate enough this year to play 15. We didn’t achieve the result we wanted in that 15th game, but we still got to play 15 times and I’m just super proud of everyone in the program for all the work they put in that allowed us to still be playing on the final day of the season.”

When the road to the 5A state championsh­ip began in August, the Yellow Jackets were one of many teams in the car thinking they had what it took to run the race.

Four months later come December, while just about everyone else’s postseason hopes had crashed and burned, the black-and-Vegas-gold were still in the driver’s seat, lapping the field and motoring full-speed towards that 5A title bout against another lightning-fast sleek hot rod named Warner Robins.

Stephenson said he and the coaches knew they had a “special group” this year that they weren’t going to put any type of limitation­s on, but while it’s the ultimate goal, you don’t think about reaching the last game of the year until it’s actually the last game of the year.

“We knew we had a special group and we knew we had a core group of kids that had played in big games the last couple of years that knew what playoff football and being in those big games was all about,” he said. “But once you start practicing and playing the games, you don’t think about anything, really, but that day’s practice and that week’s opponent.

“To me, you’re not going to reach the ultimate goal of making it to Atlanta by looking ahead. You have to put in the work each day and focus on what is directly in front of you to have any chance to keep playing and these kids did a great job with that. Whether I was talking to them as a group or fussing at them or having a teaching moment, they stayed even-keeled, they stayed in the moment and I think that is how we were able to play the max amount of games.

“There are too many good teams, especially when you get in the playoffs, for you to be thinking about the next week, so we felt like we had a chance to get there if we played well enough, but you can’t actually think about playing in the state championsh­ip when you’re still just trying to get there. But once you get there, like we were able to this year, it’s an amazing feeling and it does give your program and your team a real sense of accomplish­ment.”

It was simply a wild ride of a season filled with peaks and valleys, a lot of one or twoplay scoring drives and some real crazy-good games against great teams like Blessed Trinity twice, Cartersvil­le, and Ware County.

And it started on a hot night in August with the longest game of the season. Or what felt like the longest game of the season because remember, the scoreboard game clock wasn’t working.

(We tried to keep time on our cell phone and unofficial­ly had the teams playing a 55-minute long game with a nearly 15-minute second quarter and a 16-minute third period. We still don’t know if it we were wrong or if the

refs keeping time on the field were wrong but we do know the game started at 7:30 and we didn’t get to talk to Coach Stephenson after the game until almost 10:50 p.m. We don’t think even with games that included TV timeouts and water breaks, any other Calhoun game went over three hours.)

Then there was the McCallie game, a 38-21 loss in which they trailed 31-0 at halftime. Coach Stephenson said he believes that is the one that got his team’s attention.

“I think the McCallie game was a real learning experience for us. We knew after that game, we had a lot of work to do and I think the kids really stepped it up from that point on. They didn’t like what happened to us that night. It was a game we let get away from us quickly and it got out of hand, and I think the kids were determined after that game to make sure nothing like that happened too us again.

“But we didn’t play well that night and the kids knew it. The coaches knew it. McCallie is a great team, but we just didn’t play Calhoun football that night.”

Then came Covid and a canceled game with Cedartown, which gave the Yellow Jackets two weeks between games and time to repair some of the damage that came against McCallie.

And collective­ly, they did put things back together to the tune of a seven-game win streak.

They also found themselves getting to play Cedartown in a reschedule­d game the week before Region started, but on a Thursday night. And on that Thursday night, they began to look like a team that could be playing for a while because the offense did its thing and the defense stopped one of the best running backs in the state and allowed just a touchdown.

And they never looked back after that.

There was senior quarterbac­k Christian Lewis slinging it all over the field to speedsters like University of Georgia-bound Cole Speer, Quin Smith, Peyton Law, Brendan Gray and quite a few others.

The offensive line, led by former NFL player Barry Hall, blocked their tails off every week and sophomore running back Caden Williams was another guy who just got better and better, like everyone around him, every week.

And the defense. What can you say about those guys? They gave it up at times, mainly we think because they were hardly playing the Little Sisters of the Poor, but got enough stops when they had too for their team to keep playing until Christmas day.

So how would one sum up the truly spectacula­r Calhoun High School football season that just ended about 14 days ago?

It was truly, the most wonderful time of the year.

 ?? Tim Godbee ?? Calhoun head football coach Clay Stephenson and the Yellow Jackets had a remarkable 2021 season, going 12-3 and finishing as the GHSA 5A state runner-up.
Tim Godbee Calhoun head football coach Clay Stephenson and the Yellow Jackets had a remarkable 2021 season, going 12-3 and finishing as the GHSA 5A state runner-up.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States