CALHOUN, Ga. -- Reed Allen has heard all the criticism coming from different parts of the state. Calhoun has had it easy in recent years in the playoffs, hosting 14 consecutive non-championship games.
Take the Yellow Jackets out of the friendly confines of Phil Reeve Stadium, the talk goes, and let's see just how good they are. Those skeptics get their wish tonight when the 12-0 and second-ranked Jackets visit the Shamrock Bowl, where 11-1 and sixth-ranked Dublin awaits in the Class AA quarterfinals.
It will be Calhoun's first pre-championship road trip since a 2008 game at Brooks County. Reed, a senior defensive end and offensive tackle, believes the Jackets will embrace the opportunity to quiet the doubters.
"This will be a really, really good test for this team," said Allen, who will play at the Air Force Academy next season. "Everyone knows we perform well at home, but playing at an environment like that can only help our confidence as we hopefully get to the championship game again. A win at Dublin will tell people we're good and it's not just a home-field advantage."
The Fighting Irish have quite the homefield advantage themselves, having not lost a home playoff game in six years. If that wasn't enough to capture the Jackets' attention, Calhoun coach Hal Lamb can point to the 2004 quarterfinals at Calhoun when Dublin's fourth-quarter rally eliminated the Jackets, 48-37, in the quarterfinals.
"They're not as big and strong as the 2004 team, but they're every bit as fast," Lamb said. "They're very well coached and they play very well at home."
The opponent is the challenge, not the locale, the coach emphasized.
"I don't think traveling is going to be a big deal because this football team is mature enough to be able to handle it," he said. "Plus, we've played in the Georgia Dome in the championship games three years in a row, so it's not like we haven't traveled."
Lamb and Allen agree that a key to a Calhoun win would be getting on top early and quieting the locals.
"It will be important to get up on them early, but if we do we can't let up," Allen said. "I'm friends with the Fitzgerald quarterback [Kaleb Nobles], who played them last year there, and he said they never give up and will play the entire 48 minutes."
Speaking of playing 48 minutes, Allen added left-tackle duties to his work load in last week's 43-30 win over Brooks County after starter Jackson Brumlow broke his leg in practice. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Allen relishes the opportunity to play both ways.
"I feel honored to be able to lay it all on the line for 100 plays," he said. "This is my last chance to win a championship and I want one for our community, which has supported us so well."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...