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What they’re saying about tonight’s semifinal game

Not unexpectedly, tonight’s semifinal matchup between the Lamar County Trojans and the Calhoun Yellow Jackets has drawn considerable media attention around the state. Here are some snippets: From Coach profiles: Franklin Stephens, Lamar County High school: Burke County College: Georgia Southern Record: 72-6-1 State titles: 2 (2008, 2012) Background: Stephens was an assistant coach at his alma mater Burke County (1996-2001) and Camden County (2002-2006). Burke made its first state final in 1997, and Camden won its first state title in 2003. Stephens got the Tucker job in 2007. Tucker won its first state title in 2008. High school teams with Stephens on their staff are 183-35-2. Noteworthy: Stephens was the Southern Conference lineman of the year at Georgia Southern in 1994 and played two seasons in the Arena League. Hal Lamb, Calhoun High school: Commerce College: West Georgia Record: 161-43 State titles: 1 (2011) Background: Lamb was an assistant at Cartersville from 1988 to 1995 and was the offensive coordinator on Cartersville’s 1991 state championship team. Lamb was head coach at Upson-Lee for two seasons before coming in 1999 to Calhoun, where he has won 11 region titles. Noteworthy: Lamb is one of fewer than 10 men to win Georgia state championships as player and coach. He was a wide receiver on Commerce’s 1981 Class AA championship team. He was coach for Calhoun’s 2011 Class AA championship team. On the game: Lamar County at Calhoun When, where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Phil Reeve Stadium, Calhoun Records, rankings: Lamar County is 12-0-1, the No. 1 seed from Region 4-AA and ranked No. 5; Calhoun is 13-0, the No. 1 seed from 7-AA and ranked No. 1. Last meeting: This is the teams’ first meeting. Three things to know: 1. Calhoun QB Taylor Lamb (3,166 yards passing) is the Gatorade state player of the year, but he’s got plenty of weapons at his disposal. WR Josh Barnes has 81 catches for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns. WR Tydus Curtis has 54 catches for 875 yards and 11 touchdowns. RB Alex Urbano has rushed for 1,119 yards and scored 21 touchdowns and also has 31 catches for 313 yards. 2. Lamar County QB Lance Austin’s best skill typicallyis disturbing the ball in the Wing-T, but he had the best game of his season in a 34-28 victory over Lovett in the quarterfinals, rushing for 96 yards and completing all six passes for 141 yards. He has 676 rushing yards and 629 passing yards on the season. RB Lawrence Austin has rushed for 1,135 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. RB Jeremy Fletcher has 598 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. 3. Both are regions champions that have flipped coins in the quarterfinals and semifinals to determine which No. 1 seed would be the home team. Calhoun is 2-0 in coin flips. Lamar is 0-2. Calhoun has won 41 consecutive home games, its most recent loss to Cartersville in 2008. Calhoun has won 17 straight home playoff games dating to 2007. Maxwell Ratings’ projection: Calhoun by 24 From The Macon Telegraph: Franklin Stephens knows exactly what it takes to win a state championship. He enjoyed that feeling last year in leading Tucker to the GHSA Class AAAA title. So he’s clear on what to expect from his Lamar County team’s trip to Calhoun on Friday for the Class AA semifinals. ’There are no weeks off when you get to the playoffs, and when you get to the semifinals, there are just no bad teams left,’ Stephens said. ‘You have to get better and better and be at your best every day. You have to be on top of your preparation, because if you’re not preparing at your highest level you’re going to be in trouble.’ Northside, Wilcox County and Dooly County will join Lamar County in the semifinal round, and all four teams have had terrific seasons. Still, all four face tough tests Friday. Northside has won 13 straight games, but it has to travel to Waycross to face Ware County, which has won 12 straight, in Class AAAAA. The Eagles are searching for their first trip to the title game since losing to Camden County in 2009. Head coach Kevin Kinsler took over the program after that season, and Northside is 36-2 since then, losing in the first round in 2010 and in the semifinals in 2011. Wilcox County and Dooly County are both in the Class A semifinals and will host ECI and travel to Lincoln County, respectively. Wilcox County is 10-2, while ECI is 11-1, having won 10 straight. Dooly County is 10-2, while Lincoln County has won 10 straight on its way to an 11-1 season. Lamar County has won 12 straight and is 12-0-1, while Calhoun is 13-0. The Yellow Jackets won the state title last year after losing in the finals the previous three years. ’Any time you win in the playoffs it’s big, and to be able to go on the road to win like we did last week is huge,’ Stephens said. ‘That’s one of the things we have talked to the kids about. You want to win the region to be guaranteed a home game in the first round, and when you get to the third round it could be a coin flip if you do that. The same thing with the fourth round. But once you get here, you know it’s going to be a tough game against a good team.’ From Calhoun Times: By Alex Farrer Last week’s Calhoun-Brooks County matchup in the third round was built up by many around the state as the de facto Class AA state championship game. Unfortunately, no trophies were handed out after the Jackets dropped the hammer on the Trojans to the tune of a 49-14 victory. Now, the defending Class AA state champion Jackets welcome Lamar County to Phil Reeve Stadium on Friday night, and they’re just one step away from playing in the actual state championship game at the Georgia Dome for the fifth straight time. Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said he thinks his team will have no problem refocusing after such a big win against the Trojans. ’We’ve got to move on to the next one,’ said Lamb. ‘Right now it’s survive and advance, and I don’t think our kids will have a tough time focusing on the next goal, which is beating Lamar County. Our kids do a good job of staying pretty even keel.’ The Jackets (13-0) enter the fourth round coming off what Lamb called ‘the most complete game we’ve played all season.’ The Jackets defense held an explosive Brooks County offense to 14 points (seven of which came late in the fourth quarter when the starters had long been pulled) and forced their eighth turnover in the playoffs. On offense, quarterback Taylor Lamb threw for 365 yards and four TDs while also rushing for two. Alex Urbano had the most exciting play of the night breaking free for a 99-yard TD run in the third quarter. ’After watching the film of the game, I think we were very good in all three phases,’ said Hal Lamb. ‘We were well-prepared and the kids executed the game plan perfectly.’ After the win over Brooks County, the Jackets now prepare for another No. 1 seed in Lamar County, who was the Region 4-AA champion and finished the regular season 12-0-1. (The Trojans tied Spalding, 3-3, in the first game of the season.) Hal Lamb said his team will once again have their hands full. ’The No. 1 thing is they are well-coached,’ said Hal Lamb. ‘They are scary on both sides of the ball and very fast. They obviously know what they’re doing because they are undefeated and one of the top four teams in AA.’ Since both teams were No. 1 seeds a coin flip on Saturday was used to determine home field. For the second week in a row, the Jackets won the coin flip for the right to host the final game of the year at Phil Reeve Stadium, where the Jackets have gone 17-0 in the playoffs since 2008. Hal Lamb said winning the coin flip this week was big for several reasons, including for the seniors. ’I thought it was a big flip because we didn’t want to play them there after seeing how good they were,’ said Hal Lamb. ‘We really love playing at The Reeve, and hopefully we will continue to play well here. ’The seniors told me to please win the coin toss because they wanted to play here one more time.’ The game will be the first meeting ever between the two teams. The Trojans have defeated Cook, Benedictine and Lovett in the first three rounds, and Lamb said if his team is going to beat them they will have to win in several areas. ’Somehow, we’ve got to contain their speed,’ said Lamb. ‘They are fast across the board, and they like to run and hit. We have to execute well on offense and have to be on or toes on defense and tackle well.’ Prediction: The Jackets are back again, one game away from a trip to the Georgia Dome. They are focused and ready for another big game at home under the lights of Phil Reeve Stadium. After dominating Brooks County last week in a very well-played game by Calhoun, the team is riding high with confidence, believing they are truly the team to beat in AA. Lamar County has had a great season, but unfortunately, they are running into a wrecking ball in Calhoun. Score: Calhoun 42, Lamar County 21

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