DUBLIN, Ga. -- It may have been a little early for Christmas, but when Hunter Knight took the field at the Shamrock Bowl in the Georgia Class AA quarterfinals Friday night, his eyes lit up as if Santa had just delivered his most sought-after gift.
The Calhoun linebacker and his angry defensive mates dominated Dublin in a 45-7 Yellow Jackets win, shutting down a run-oriented offense that had grounded out nearly 800 yards in two playoff wins. Knight, unleashed by the coaching staff to blitz at will, had four sacks and another tackle for loss as the first-team defense held Dublin to a net 7 yards rushing through three quarters.
Calhoun (13-0) will host Appling County, a 35-33 four-overtime winner over Lamar County, next Friday in the semifinals.
"The defense felt very confident coming in," Knight said. "It was a tremendous team effort. We love playing teams that run the ball. It fits right into what we like to do. Still, we were surprised the first half went like it did because they have been putting up big numbers."
The Calhoun offense was just as dominating. The Jackets punted on their first possession but scored touchdowns on their next four. Junior quarterback Taylor Lamb was at his best, throwing for two scores and running for two as well.
"I talked to the team about passion, execution and effort, and I thought if we took care of all three we would win this game, and we did," Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said. "Our defense was again outstanding, and offensively we executed very well. Taylor made some very nice reads in that first half."
His first big read resulted in the game's first points when he faked a handoff to Darius Washington and kept the ball around right end for a 23-yard touchdown. Four Dublin defenders tackled Washington as Lamb went nearly untouched for six points.
He next led a 65-yard drive that featured the lethal Lamb-to-Lamb connection. Taylor hit cousin Ben Lamb on a pump-and-go down the left sideline for a 53-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The third drive featured the hard running of sophomore Alex Urbano, who ripped off back-to-back 15-yard runs to get inside Dublin territory, leading to a Taylor Lamb play-action 7-yard touchdown pass to Alex Kirby. The quarterback capped off his sterling half with a 7-yard touchdown run and a 28-0 lead.
Lamb finished his night 17-for-23 for 227 yards and added 46 yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, the nasty Calhoun defense was making Dublin pay for every yard. With the ground game stymied, Dublin quarterback Rob East tried to get things going through the air, but Knight repeatedly was in the backfield, getting three early sacks and harassing East several other times.
"Hunter just makes plays," Hal Lamb said. "He has great instincts, and when he gets a bead on a player he usually gets him."
With memories of Dublin's 2004 second-half quarterfinal comeback still on their minds, the Jackets stayed aggressive in the third quarter, when Urbano scored on runs of 22 and 27 yards. He led Calhoun rushers with 83 yards on eight carries.
Coach Lamb pulled his starters beginning the final quarter, with the clock running due to the score.