CALHOUN, Ga. -- Appling County took a risk and paid for it dearly Friday night in the GHSA Class AA football semifinal at Calhoun.
The Pirates tried something defensively that no other team had dared against the potent Calhoun passing attack, a pressing man-to-man coverage scheme that backfired in a hurry. Calhoun quarterback Taylor Lamb burned the Pirates early and often, passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns in the first half as the Yellow Jackets rolled to a 51-14 win.
Calhoun (14-0) will play Buford for the fourth consecutive season next Friday in the Georgia Dome, having lost to the Wolves in each of the previous three attempts.
"We played a great first half and kind of leveled off in the second half," Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said. "Our main goal, though, was to win the football game and go back to the Georgia Dome and we did. I hope it's the year. We're going to prepare like crazy and give it a shot."
Though they weren't prepared for the daring defensive look Friday, it didn't take the Jackets long to exploit it. Following an exchange of defensive touchdowns in the first three minutes, Taylor Lamb hit Chase Rierson twice for 65 yards on quick fly patterns, the second covering 47 yards and a 14-7 lead.
Following a defensive stop, Lamb hit Rierson for 23 and followed with a 57-yard touchdown pass to Clay Johnson, who caught a quick slant at the Appling 40 and raced untouched for the score. The lead grew to 30-7 following an Adam Griffith 33-yard field goal and another quick drive covering 57 yards when Tydus Curtis crossed the harried Pirates defense up with a 19-yard touchdown run on a draw play.
The Jackets capped the wild first half with a five-play, 77-yard drive as quarterback Lamb hit on three passes, the final one a 38-yard strike to cousin Ben Lamb for a 37-7 lead.
"They came out in press-man coverage with no safety, and we just took advantage of it," Taylor Lamb said. "All we had to do was win the one-on-ones outside and we did in the first half. My receivers ran great routes and the line protected well. We were surprised they tried to defend us like that."
The second half was marred with personal fouls, including six on the visitors, who racked up 14 penalties. Calhoun kept the ball on the ground as much as possible after halftime, getting 98 of the team's 166 rushing yards to go with 357 through the air.
"This is a semifinal football game, and to score 51 points and to really hold them them seven in a physical game says a lot about our team," Coach Lamb said. "I had gotten some reports about that crowd and how physical they were and how if they got down there might be some issues, and there were. I'm proud of my players for keeping their heads."
Rierson led Calhoun receivers with 128 yards on six catches, all in the first half.