ATLANTA - As the emotions continued to build on the face of the veteran football coach, he took a deep breath and looked up into the home-side stands of the Georgia Dome. A smile swept across Hal Lamb's face as he started to realize the impact of what he had just witnessed.
While others were lauding Lamb for leading the 15-0 Calhoun Yellow Jackets past Buford in a wild 27-24 overtime win in Friday's GHSA Class AA championship game, the coach who had spent the past three years wondering if he would ever add a title to his impressive resume was just happy he could pay back a community that has never wavered in its support.
"This is for the Calhoun community," Lamb said after pumping a fist to the thousands of Calhoun fans in attendance. "Look at all these people - it's incredible. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Calhoun has the best fans in the world, and they deserve to be celebrating this championship along with us.
"You're in this business to change lives, but you're also in it to win championships, and we got our first one tonight."
While Lamb's extended family was raising the roof at the Dome after suffering the heartache of losing to the same Buford team three consecutive years, his actual family was, as usual, right by his side. When Lamb looks back on the day and the season, that ultimately will be what he remembers most.
Thirty years ago Friday, he and brother Bobby were key members of father Ray Lamb's Commerce team that won a state championship, ending Ray Lamb's own personal struggle to win a title. Friday, two other Lambs celebrated as players: Hal's senior son, Ben, and Bobby's junior son, Taylor.
While Hal Lamb was praising his team for its resilience and heart and the community for its support, Bobby Lamb did not want his brother getting left out.
"There is no better person to have my son play for than my brother," said Bobby Lamb, the former Furman University coach who is heading the fledgling Mercer University program. "We're such a close-knit family and I'm extremely happy for the entire family. I'm unbelievably proud for Hal to finally get that monkey off his back. We finally got it done today, and it's an unreal experience.
"I can't help but think back to 30 years ago today, when we won the state championship at Commerce. To duplicate that with a different set of Lambs was awesome."
While few people believed Calhoun could end Buford's dominance, there was one player who predicted it.
"It's unbelievable," Ben Lamb said. "I've never been so excited in my life. A lot of people doubted us, but we knew we could do it. We fought through pain all year, and we know how adversity feels, losing here three times in a row.
"I told my dad we were going to do it. He's always wanted one and he's worked so hard to get it, and it feels great to give him one in my senior year."