Class 5A blog: Calhoun’s win changes the narrative for the whole state

The Calhoun Yellow Jackets reshaped the landscape of Class 5A with last week’s 50-48 triple-overtime win over Cartersville.

With the victory, Calhoun (4-2) beat their rivals for the first time since 2009 and snapped Cartersville 62-game region winning streak, a stretch that dated back to 2011. If the Yellow Jackets can win out – and they will be favored in their remaining four games – they will win the Region 7 title for the first time since 2018.

“We’ve got a lot of football left to play,” Calhoun coach Clay Stephenson said. “It’s obviously a great win and I’m very proud of our team.”

Calhoun led 28-7, but Cartersville’s defense dug in and the Purple Hurricanes tied the score late to force overtime.

Calhoun’s Caden Williams, who had been held at bay in the second half, re-emerged in the overtime when he scored two touchdowns and the winning two-point conversion. He finished with 36 carries for 169 yards and became quite emotional after the game.

Williams told GPB afterwards, “We put in so much work and it paid off. I do what it takes to win and I trained twice a day, four days a week and it paid off.”

It may have also been a breakthrough game for Calhoun quarterback Trey Townsend. He kept the game alive in the second overtime by overcoming a holding penalty that backed the Jackets up to the 25. On fourth down, he was able to get a pass to tight end Emaree Winston, who turned it into a 13-yard touchdown.

The game was not secured until Calhoun stopped Cartersville quarterback Patrick Gamble the two-point conversion. Calhoun’s Christian Smith applied pressure and Nathan Fuller broke through to tie up Gamble well short of the goal line.

Cartersville (5-1) was led by Malachi Jeffries, who ran 25 times for 160 yards. The Yellow Jackets will also be favored in their remaining games and can take solace in the fact that Calhoun was second in the region a year ago and played for the state championship.

Three of the other biggest wins from last week:

Lithia Springs knocks off Villa Rica: The Lions have won two straight and set themselves up for a chance to finish second in Region 5 with a 24-0 win over Villa Rica. Jai’Que Hart completed 14 of 22 passes for 276 yards – four catches for 98 yards to Devon Green and four catches for 93 yards to Ayden Smith. Keaton McKinney had 12 tackles and Javon Jennings intercepted a pass.

Loganville outslugs Eastside: This was an old-school football game that featured a scoreless second half. Loganville made a stand on fourth-and-gold at the 2 to prevent Eastside from scoring and won the game 13-10. Solomon Leslie ran 26 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Red Devils, who are 7-0 for the first time in school history.

Creekside survives scare: The Seminoles scored with 2:31 left in the game and Khary Morrow banged it in for the winning two-point conversion and a 22-21 win over Mays. The win improved Creekside to 4-2 and gave coach Maurice Dixon’s team a four-game winning streak. Morrow finished with 126 yards rushing and two touchdowns and Rod McCrary ran for 115 yards to lead Creekside.

Three top performances from last week

The Cambridge defense: The Bears, led by senior linebacker Elliott Kuykendall, mauled the Greater Atlanta Christian blockers and recorded 10 tackles for loss. They sacked Spartans’ quarterback Jack Stanton four times, caused a fumble and blocked an extra point. The effort lifted Cambridge to a 43-13 win and improved the Bears to 4-2 overall and 2-0 in Region 6.

Julian Shanks, Arabia Mountain: The Rams won their Region 4 opener 42-15 over Lithonia and Shanks played a big role. He passed for 263 yards and five touchdowns and ran for a touchdown to even their record at 3-3 and keep them in the playoff hunt.

Omarion Tucker, Jones County: The Greyhounds kept it on the ground in a 42-19 win over Eagle’s Landing and Tucker was the main beneficiary. He ran it 19 times for 150 yards and scored five touchdowns to help Jones County improve to 4-2. The win boosted the Greyhounds back into the state rankings at No. 9.

The Top 10 – plus five unofficial others

The AJC’s official top 10: 1. Ware County, 2. Creekside, 3. Dutchtown, 4. Calhoun, 5. Cartersville, 6. Loganville, 7. Kell, 8. Coffee, 9. Jones County, 10. Cambridge.

The very unofficial next five: 11. Jefferson, 12. Northside-Columbus, 13. Eastside, 14. Chamblee, 15. Lithia Springs.

Credit: DeKalb County Athletics

Credit: DeKalb County Athletics