CALHOUN, Ga. — Taylor Lamb is asked the question quite often, and the Calhoun High School quarterback has a quick and accurate answer.
"How do you guys play so fast?"
To call the Yellow Jackets' offense fast-paced would be like calling the University of Tennessee coaching search confusing. Lamb and his efficient teammates never huddle, and when they get on a roll or sense a defense starting to lag, snaps come and go at a dizzying pace. Calhoun averages, according to offensive coordinator Mike Davis, between 60 and 70 snaps a game.
The prepare for such a pace, there must be much conditioning, right? In reality, Calhoun players do very little conditioning during the season because they don't need to. The practices more than get players ready for the "basketball on grass" offense.
"Our practices are run at a faster pace than the games," said Lamb, spilling the team's secret. "We go faster and harder in practice so that the game actually slows down for us."
Calhoun has averaged 46 points per game and has scored at least 30 by halftime in each of the last 10 games. But while the 13-0 and top-ranked Jackets have offensive talent to burn -- including Lamb's 3,100 yards passing and 34 touchdowns -- it's often the overwhelming pace of the game that ultimately does opponents in.
"It's very difficult to prepare for," Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said. "You can't really feel the tempo on film, and it would be impossible to simulate it and get it down in one week."
The pace is especially effective against teams with multiple two-way starters, such as tonight's Class AA semifinal foe Lamar County. The Trojans have just 40 players on their roster and several two-way players. At some point in the game the Calhoun players will be looking for the signs of tired opponents.
It's then they become sharks and smell blood.
"Smelling blood, that's a good way to put it," said Davis, the architect of the Oregon-like offense. "We play our best when we play fast, and when we see signs of a team dragging, we play even faster. We used to have a code word that would signal it was time to pick it up, but now it's just the normal pace we set."
Davis was able to implement the quicker pace in large part because, for the first time since the program went to the spread offense, he had a returning quarterback starter. Taylor Lamb, with a year in the system under his belt, did not have to spend the early part of the season getting accustomed to the offense.
Instead, Davis was able to add on from the start of camp.
"By now Taylor knows the offense better than we do," Davis said. "With that we've been able to open it up and do more. He understands the concepts and how to read a defense, and he loves the pace."
It's a combination the quarterback believes is too much for any team.
"I'm not being cocky," the quarterback explained, "but if we're playing well, I don't think there is a defense that can stop us."
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 ...