Rome and Calhoun fall in the state semi­fi­nals; Rock­mart ad­vances to cham­pi­onship game

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By Tyler Ser­ritt TSer­[email protected]­hounTimes.com

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.

/ Tim God­bee

Calhoun quar­ter­back Gavin Gray sets for a pass on Fri­day night against the Peach County Tro­jans.

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