No one on Dalton High football’s 2012 roster has beaten Calhoun.
The Catamounts’ senior class gets one last shot tonight at Harmon Field in their home opener against the Yellow Jackets, the 2011 Class 2A state champions.
In other area games, all non-region matchups that will kick off at 7:30 p.m., Murray County is at Christian Heritage, Southeast Whitfield travels to Gordon Central, North Murray goes to Dade County and Coahulla Creek hosts Gordon Lee. Northwest Whitfield is off tonight.
Calhoun (1-0), the No. 1-ranked team in The Associated Press’ Class 2A poll, picked up a 42-35 win last week in the final seconds against Ridgeland. Dalton (1-0) — like Ridgeland, a Region 7-4A program — was off last week after a season-opening 21-19 win at Ringgold on Aug. 24.
“My current concern going in is Dalton has two weeks to prepare for us,” Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said.
That’s not the approach the Cats took, though, coach Matt Land said.
“We really didn’t treat it as two weeks to get ready for Calhoun, because they hadn’t played a game yet,” he said. “For us to prepare would be us looking at last year’s film, and you don’t want to waste time preparing for something you won’t see. So that’s why we spent a lot of time last week focusing on ourselves.”
Dalton and Calhoun is a rivalry with games played as early as 1925, Dalton’s second year of football, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association website (ghsfha.org). The Catamounts lead the series 34-6-1, but the Yellow Jackets have won three in a row and four of the past six since 2006, when the rivalry matchups resumed after a 16-season hiatus.
“I don’t know if we have the upper hand, but it’s a tremendous rivalry and a good, clean rivalry,” Lamb said. “We respect them and I think they respect us. It’s a big rivalry than goes a lot deeper than I thought it did.”
Calhoun won last year’s matchup 24-14, and won in 2009 and 2010 by scores of 31-28 and 27-14.
That means no current Catamount has experienced beating Calhoun.
“Besides the Ridgeland game, because I love playing Ridgeland, but I also love playing Calhoun because I hate them really, really, really bad,” Dalton senior cornerback Ethan Fromm said. “I’ve never been on a team that has beaten them. We haven’t done it, so I want to do it.”
Senior fullback Hunter Cleary’s feelings weren’t quite as strong, but he agreed with Fromm in a way.
“I don’t hate them, but I want to beat them more than anything,” he said.
“I’ve never beaten Calhoun. Since I’ve been here I haven’t won (this game), but I think we will Friday.”
One thing both coaches agreed on is their opponent does not have any glaring weaknesses.
“I don’t know if I can tell you the weaknesses,” Land said. “They got to be the king of the hill last year, and I don’t really see any kinks in the armor. I think they’re just as good a team as they were last year, and they have more maturity in (Taylor) Lamb at quarterback because now he is a senior.”
Said coach Lamb, “I don’t know if they have any weaknesses. I know their tailback (Kelvis Rhodes) is really good. ... They have a three-year starter at quarterback (Cole Calfee) who can do some things, and their wide receiver, Brandon Dale, is a good weapon to have.”
Murray County (0-1) at
Christian Heritage (0-1)
After months of hard work that followed eight years of progress by players, students, alumni, coaches, administrators and boosters, Christian Heritage finally has a true stadium to call home.
The Lions will play their first home game as a member of the GHSA, inaugurating their stadium — previously, the school did not have permanent seating at its field — with the first varsity football game on the school’s newly installed synthetic turf. They will also play host to their first local foe.
“We will be fine, but we have to take care of what we can do and not get caught up in the hoopla,” Christian Heritage coach Preston Poag said. “There will be a big celebration for the opening of the stadium, and there will be a big crowd for the opening, but they are coming to watch a football game. It’s our job to take care of the football part on the field.”
Tonight’s game will be the first chance for the Lions to prove their worth to local teams, and Murray County coach John Hammond knows that will give the Christian Heritage players extra incentive.
“You have two programs who have never played each other in anything,” Hammond said. “Some of these kids know each other and are friends, and it is kind of exciting to start something new.”
Coming into the second game of the season, both the Indians and the Lions are looking for new beginnings.
Murray County lost 55-6 to Coahulla Creek last week at home, while Christian Heritage did enough right in a 40-16 loss to Model to make the Lions really regret the things that went wrong — namely the eight turnovers CHS gave away.
“We played terrible and just handed it to Model,” Poag said. “We have to learn from our mistakes and we have to improve and get better. We played really tight, and I told my guys that it didn’t matter who we were playing, we just need to execute.”
Murray County will welcome back senior quarterback Brady Todd, who was suspended for the season opener. Poag knows that will make a big difference for the Indians’ flexbone, triple-option attack.
“Anytime you don’t have your trigger man, it is a big thing, and Todd is their best player,” Poag said. “We saw their scrimmage game with him at quarterback in that offense and he runs it really well. We haven’t seen a lot of triple option, and if the defense bites on a fake or they are too aggressive, Todd will hurt you.”
North Murray (1-0)
at Dade County (0-1)
Dade County was a yard away from having a 1-0 start just like North Murray.
The Wolverines lost 26-21 to Alabama’s North Sand Mountain last week after failing to score on the final possession. A botched snap on third-and-goal from the 1 caused quarterback Luke Riddle to have to take a loss. Then with less than 10 seconds to play, he spiked the ball to stop the clock, believing it was third down rather than fourth.
“It was an honest mistake,” Dade County coach Bradley Warren said. “I don’t know how many plays he ran in the final 30 seconds.”
Now the Wolverines must put the disappointing loss behind them and focus on a team that had nothing close to disappointment in its season opener. North Murray racked up 441 yards on the ground in a 37-14 win against Southeast.
“You’ve got to control the running game,” Warren said of the Mountaineers. “We’ve struggled two weeks in a row on defense and we have a young defense. I’ll be glad when we can have a complete game and get one under our belt. Maybe it will be this week.”
Warren doesn’t believe that will be easy against the Mountaineers.
“They seem to like the new coaches and system they have,” said Warren, who is in his fifth season in Trenton and is the only coach to have more than one winning season at Dade County. “I know they are really strong on the backfield.”
Mountaineers coach David Gann hopes his backs have the same type of success as against Southeast, but he knows it will be a different challenge this week.
“Their defensive line, size-wise, they don’t have the size or are as physical as Southeast,” Gann said, “but they are extremely fast and we will have our hands full catching those guys. That’s kind of what is going to make or break us right there, is if we can handle those athletic defensive linemen.”
And the size advantage for North Murray could mean a lot of carries up the middle.
“Our focus and game plan is to run right at them,” Gann said.
Gordon Lee (0-1) at
Coahulla Creek (1-0)
Last week, Coahulla Creek started the season with a 55-6 victory at Murray County, while Gordon Lee got off to a rocky 28-0 loss to Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe.
Those two teams, coming off very different games, meet tonight.
This will be the first home varsity game for coach Jared Hamlin’s first-year varsity squad.
“Anytime you win, you’re happy,” Hamlin said. “It was a good win for us because it was our first one. Our kids played hard and gave great effort. ... But we still have a lot of things we have to get better. We had too many penalties and mental mistakes”
Obviously, the first-year varsity Colts have not previously played Gordon Lee, which started its football program 82 years ago and has played a total of 776 games. However, the Trojans have just one double-digit win season since 1966 — 11-2 in 2002 under coach Greg Ellis — and they’re 20-33 over the past seven seasons.
Trojans coach Charlie Wiggins said his team committed a bevy of costly mistakes last week. They lost three fumbles, had a pass intercepted, picked up just six first downs, were held to 103 yards of total offense and were penalized 15 times for 136 yards.
“Throw out the first quarter when most of the mistakes occurred, it’s a decent game,” Wiggins said. “You can’t turn the ball over, can’t extend drives for (the opposing team) and can’t hinder your own drives. I’ve been doing this since 1992, so I know if you do those things you’re doomed to lose.
“We have to go back to basics. If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t do anything against anybody. I don’t think we’re down, but we’re disappointed that we didn’t perform to our ability.”
Wiggins, who’s in his first season as the Trojans’ head coach after Kevin McElhaney went 28-36 with three playoff appearances from 2006 to 2011 before stepping down, said his team must play stouthearted defense against Coahulla Creek.
“They’re an explosive team as you could see against Murray County,” Wiggins said. “They’re physical up front, and what they’ve done so far they’ve done well.”
Wiggins was impressed with Colts quarterback Blaine Williams, who passed for four touchdowns and ran for another and amassed 271 yards of total offense against the Indians.
“The quarterback makes good decisions with what they do,” Wiggins said. “They’ve put their athletes in a position to be successful. Defensively, they’ve had success defending the run and pass.
Southeast (0-1) at
Gordon Central (1-0)
When Southeast takes the field tonight at Raider Stadium, the Raiders will be facing a squad with momentum from both the season opener — a 35-0 win over Coosa — and the 2011 season.
Coach Chad Fisher’s Warriors advanced to the Class 2A state playoffs a year ago, the program’s first postseason appearance in five years. They were 7-4 in 2011, the best record in Fisher’s tenure.
“Gordon Central is very impressive,” said Southeast coach Sean Gray, whose Raiders lost 37-14 to North Murray in last week’s opener. “They’re very athletic.”
Gordon Central, now a Region 7-3A school, returned 13 starters from last year’s stellar squad.
“Going to the playoffs has carried us in the offseason,” Fisher said. “They’ve been working hard. They want to get back to the playoffs. We can be as good or better than last year.”
Gray has seen enough film on the Warriors to know his team’s Herculean task.
“They have some big-time players at receiver,” Gray said. “They have great speed. Their quarterback throws a great deep ball. On defense, they were good enough to get a shutout in the first game.”
Wide receiver Tyshaun Clemons, now a senior, had 900 yards on 53 catches — including seven touchdowns — a year ago. Most of the throws came from quarterback M.J. Reynolds, another senior.
D.J. Prather (6-2, 230), a two-way player at end, and Clemons generally are considered the Warriors’ top college prospects.
Southeast, a Region 7-4A program, can reciprocate with junior athlete Rhett Harper, who had 252 all-purpose yards against North Murray. That included a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The Raiders must improve their defense drastically tonight. That unit was gashed for 441 yards rushing by the Mountaineers, who won their first game in two years and their second overall since beginning varsity football in 2010.
— Compiled by sports writers Devin Golden and Chris Whitfield and correspondents Larry Fleming and Doug Hawley