Rome and Calhoun fall in the state semifinals; Rockmart advances to championship game
CALHOUN — In Friday night’s Class 3A semifinal contest, the Peach County Trojans proved more opportunistic, defeating Calhoun 22-7 at The Reeve and closing the door on the Jackets’ state playoff run.
Capitalizing on its opposition’s miscues is what propelled Peach County to an early lead.
“We made too many mistakes to win the ballgame,” Calhoun head coach Hal Lamb said. “We had our opportunities to score early, but you can make mistakes like we did tonight, like those two blunders in the punt team, and you can’t do that against good teams. Our kids played hard but we just couldn’t execute like we needed to.”
On a fourth-and-long on Calhoun’s third possession, Peach County’s Jamir Best busted through the offensive line and got his hands on an Aaron Hayes punt, while also pouncing on the loose ball himself, to give the Trojans optimal field position on the Jackets’ 6-yard line.
Peach County quarterback Jaydon Gibson soon cashed in, powering in a keeper for a 6-yard touchdown.
Calhoun maintained its composure, however, and quickly produced an answer. Sparked by a 46-yard screen pass from quarterback Gavin Gray to Bralin Barton, in which Barton snagged the pass then sliced through multiple defenders, the Jackets capped off a its only scoring drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak muscled in by Gray in the early second quarter.
It looked as if the Jackets were poised to flip the field on an interception by Brannon Spector on the next possession. However, Calhoun uncharacteristically failed to transform the turnover into points, with the offense going threeand-out in what had the appearance of a turning point in the game.
Special teams execution then harmed the Jackets again, as Hayes struggled to hold onto the snap due to the wet conditions and dropped the ball. This time it was Noah Whittington who scooped up the fumble on the Calhoun 46.
In a night where both signal-callers struggled to connect deep for most of the night, Gibson produced perhaps the best throw of the game on a 31-yard pass to Justin Harris for six, with the Trojans failing to convert the extra point. Peach County entered the halftime locker room with a 13-6 edge on the scoreboard.
“(This senior class) is a special bunch,” Lamb said. “They are a tight-knit group that felt like it had a chance to win a state championship. But this time of year everyone is good, if you don’t come and play well you’ll get beat. But these seniors are unbelievable, and they have done everything I have asked them to do.”
The Jackets showed resilience in the final period, halting the Trojans on a fourthand-goal in order to create a couple more opportunities to try and rally. Although moments later, Harris added what proved to be the dagger for Peach County, returning an interception 46 yards for a touchdown to lock in the win.
Gray finished 19-40 passing for 244 yards along with his rushing score. Bralin Barton was the leading receiver with six catches for 72 yards.
With the gap-discipline and physicality of the Trojan defense, and an early exit due to an apparent injury for Zack Fuller, Calhoun was led in rushing by Spector, who had 16 yards on one long carry.
Calhoun quarterback Gavin Gray sets for a pass on Friday night against the Peach County Trojans.