Class 5A: Warner Robins 38, Calhoun 14

Warner Robins celebrates its 2021 Class A championship.

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Warner Robins celebrates its 2021 Class A championship.

Malcolm Brown was unable to play in the Class 5A championship game on Saturday because of season-ending knee surgery. He watched the game from the sidelines in a scooter. But his Warner Robins teammates made sure his presence was felt in a powerful way.

Daveon Walker, the team’s all-state receiver, donned Brown’s No. 7 in tribute. And Fred Perry, Brown’s best friend on the team, continued to take up the mantle for his fallen teammate with 233 yards and two touchdowns. Perry also led the team with 10 tackles.

So while Brown’s name won’t be found in the box score, it’s all over Warner Robins’ 38-14 win over Calhoun. The victory gave the No. 4-ranked Demons back-to-back championships for the first time in the history of the storied program.

“You could kind of say that since he got hurt, I have a chip on my shoulder,” Perry said. “I played with a chip on my shoulder all the way through the playoffs just to get here. … I told him, ‘I’ve got your back’ and I’m going finish strong.”

In five playoff games, Perry rushed for 926 yards and 16 touchdowns.

“Fred is awesome, man,” Warner Robins coach Marquis Westbrook said. “He … is … awesome.”

And Warner Robins belongs in the awesome category, too. Derailed by a regular-season loss to Ware County, the Demons had to win their last three playoff games on the road just to reach the championship game for the fifth straight year.

“It wasn’t easy,” Perry said. “We knew it was going to be tough and that’s why we had to keep pushing.”

Warner Robins gained 436 yards of total offense, but it was two plays by the special teams that got the momentum rolling their way.

Warner Robins got its first break when Calhoun lined up to punt on its opening possession. Beau Black bobbled the snap and Warner Robins’ Khebrion Puchoon crashed through to recover the ball at the 18.

Four plays later the Demons scored on a 3-yard run by Perry, one play after H-back Nate Sanford caught a 18-yard pass to convert a third-and-11.

Calhoun’s second punting kerfuffle gave the Demons another touchdown. With Black injured on the first punt, Christopher Lewis was called on to punt and he bobbled the snap, which allowed Chayce Smith to smash him and send the fumble into the arms of Sanford, who chugged 41 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

“That was just a momentum builder for us,” Westbrook said. “That team over there, we can’t get in their heads, but I thought it kind of got to them a little bit early and they fought back. But that momentum we got early on really gave us a boost in the first half.”

Calhoun got on the board with an impressive12-play drive that was capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Christian Lewis to Quin Smith.

Warner Robins appeared to have answered, but Perry’s touchdown run was negated because of a holding call. Two plays later Cole Speer went high in the end zone for a one-handed interception to deny the Demons.

The Yellow Jackets took the ball to the Warner Robins 9, went for it on fourth-and-5. The pass sailed high and the Demons took over on downs. Warner Robins drove 73 yards in 17 plays, but had to settle for Daniel Barber’s 35-yard field goal with one minute remaining in the half.

Calhoun ate only 27 seconds off the clock and Warner Robins regained possession with 31 seconds left. On the fourth play, Lane completed a pass to Cam Flowers, who shook a defender and went for a 51-yard touchdown and take a 24-7 halftime lead.

Warner Robins pulled away with two fourth-quarter scores, a 46-yard run from Perry and a 4-yard keeper from quarterback Christon Lane. Calhoun got a late score on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Smith.

Warner Robins (14-1) got 157 yards passing from Lane, who completed 14 of 24 passes with one interception. Chaz Sturn ran 12 times for 51 yards.

Calhoun (12-3) was led by Gage Leonard, who rushed nine times for 83 yards, and Caden Williams, who carried 15 times for 75 yards. Christian Lewis completed 14 of 39 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked twice and threw an interception. Smith caught five passes for 40 yards and two touchdowns.

Warner Robins kept the ball away from Speer, the speedy receiver who has committed to Georgia. He was limited to three catches for 38 yards and lost a yard on his lone punt return.

The win means Warner Robins was able to navigate a difficult schedule and win the school’s sixth state title, despite having a target on its back.

“I always say, these guys come to work every day,” Westbrook said. “They answer the best. We ask a lot out of them. We demand a lot out of them. But they show up. They practice and they get paid like this. I can’t say enough about these kids and these coaches.”

Click here for a box score.

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