Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith
CALHOUN — They’re still celebrating here in this one time Cherokee stronghold where, in the past, there has been an annual trail of tears for season after season as Calhoun found its way to the finals of the Class AA championship — only to be denied by Buford.
Three years in a row, Calhoun destroyed every team in its path but couldn’t get past Buford at the Georgia Dome — until the second weekend in early December when a field goal in overtime gave the Yellow Jackets a 27-24 victory over their long time nemesis.
This may not have been coach Hal Lamb’s most talented team, but it had uncommon chemistry, which made the difference. His Yellow Jackets beat a bigger and stronger Buford team by playing two starting offensive linemen who weighed only 185 pounds.
“Nobody played with more heart,” Lamb said.
That old song, “You Gotta Have Heart,” could be the theme for Hal’s latest team.
“You just felt good for everybody,” he said of the victory. “It not only meant something special to our players, it was special for our community. Everybody has worked so hard for so many years — we just wanted to win for everybody.”
The community spirit that permeates Calhoun can be found in many places in the state, but there is a little more emphasis here, owing to the leadership of the head coach.
The familial spirit that dominates the town and community begins with a coach giving of himself. To kids, parents and the community. Team effort is a staple of the Calhoun way, but the leader, the coach, sets the tone. A quiet, soft-spoken type, Hal knows what it is like when everybody pulls together and when everybody unites behind a central theme and puts differences and pettiness aside.
There is no evidence of self serving proponents in the county seat of Gordon County, which last experienced a state championship in 1952. When a parade was organized for the current team a few weeks ago, one of the first decisions was to include living members of that ’52 team.
It is refreshing to see the Lamb influence in Calhoun. He has tried to create the same atmosphere he grew up with at Commerce where his father Ray Lamb won a state championship with Hal playing wide receiver and his brother, Bobby, calling signals at quarterback in 1981. The recent title game was a reflection of the past with Bobby’s son, Taylor, playing quarterback for Hal and Hal’s son, Ben, lined up at wide-out, playmakers extraordinaire.
On the sideline with Hal was Mike Davis, offensive coordinator, married to Hal’s sister Lynn who was a cheerleader in waiting for the ’81 Commerce team and is now a teacher who manages “Education Program Pathway,” which provides leadership for kids who want to become teachers, another reflection on the way things were at Commerce when Ray was head coach. Teachers beget teachers.
You should be here on Friday nights when Ray and Linda Lamb arrive from Commerce for a Calhoun game. Lynn and Hal’s wife Kim are involved with the booster club and its activities and provide extra lung power from the stands. Almost every home game weekend, there is time to celebrate at either Hal’s home or at Lynn and Mike’s address, but not for long.
Every Saturday morning Hal and Kim, Ray and Linda head off to wherever Tennessee Tech is playing. Hal’s son Tre is the quarterback for the Golden Eagles, who reached the finals of the FCS playoffs this year. After the Tennessee Tech game, the Lamb family returns home in time for Hal to meet with the coaches at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
“We cover a lot of miles and get very little sleep, but it is worth it,” Hal said.
High School football! That is where some of the best coaching and teaching is done today and where the most fun often takes place. For most of the kids, they are playing the game because they love it, seldom thinking about NFL paydays. The good news is that Calhoun doesn’t have an exclusive on supporting its local teams, but it would be a challenge to find a community with greater commitment.