Hal Lamb didn't want to put too much into the outcome, but even the most pessimistic of Calhoun High School football fans had to leave Bowers and Painter Field with a strong impression of the Yellow Jackets in 2013.
Displaying a dominating, swarming defense and -- following a sluggish start -- its usual prolific short passing game, Calhoun rolled to a season-opening 37-0 win at Ridgeland. This battle of 2012 state runners-up was all yellow, black and gold as the Panthers were held to two first downs and 59 total yards.
"I was really, really pleased with our defense," Lamb said. "They came to play. Offensively we didn't do the little things right, but this is a team game and we feed off each other, and the defense led tonight. I had no idea we would beat them 37-0. I have a world of respect for Mark [Mariakis] and his program, and they had a few of their big guys out tonight."
Missing several starters, including two-way lineman Jermane Conyers, the Panthers were stifled at every turn. The game, however, was just 3-0 after the first quarter as each offense took turns giving the ball away. That all changed midway through the second quarter when senior first-time starting quarterback Fields Chapman started finding his rhythm.
Chapman, after a 3-for-8 start with an interception, was 8-of-10 in the final six minutes of the first half as the Jackets, aided by a pair of Ridgeland fumbles, scored three touchdowns. He connected with new receiver Chandler Curtis for an 18-yard score to make it 13-0, after Mitch Morrow returned a Ridgeland fumble 21 yards for a touchdown, and hit Tydus Curtis for a 30-yard score to put the visitors up 27-0 at the half.
"We could have started better, but once we got going we were on the money," said Chapman, who ended his night 14-of-24 for 197 yards. "We're not where we need to be, but if can have a good week of practice we'll be there next week. I didn't come out nervous, but then after I got a couple of series under my belt I felt more at home.
"I'm surrounded by incredible athletes. I've got so many athletes out there with me that it really helps me do my job. All I have to do is get the ball to them."
Tydus Curtis made six catches for 100 yards as 11 Yellow Jackets caught at least one ball. The defense, led by linebackers Will Conley and Austin Bennett, never allowed the Panthers to get anything going on the ground and made Ridgeland runners pay the price when they tried.
Ridgeland coach Mariakis hopes his team learns from the tough start.
"We had 11 hurt last week and a couple that played banged up, but that's not an excuse and it had nothing to do with the outcome," he said. "We've just got to get better. That was a lot of guys' first taste of big-time Friday night football, so we've got to get them up to speed. Calhoun didn't care, though, and neither will our next opponent."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.
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 ...