CALHOUN, Ga. - Josh Barnes admits living up to standards set in previous years is quite the motivating factor for any receiver on the Calhoun High School football team.
It's one major reason the Yellow Jackets, despite constant turnover at the position, consistently deploy dangerous, reliable targets in its spread attack. The trend started with former University of Georgia standout Kris Durham, who put up big numbers despite playing in the final years of the program's wing-T offense.
Derek Ramsey, Rhett McGowan, Da'Rick Rogers, J.T. Palmer, Ben Lamb, Chase Rierson and Clay Johnson followed, each set of receivers putting up bigger numbers and culminating in last year's Class AA championship. Barnes was the fourth receiver on that team, the only one returning with any real experience at the position. Then, in the first game, starter Andrew Haynes was lost for the season with a leg injury.
Surely this would be the year the Jackets have a playmaking fall-off, right? Think again. Barnes and former running back Tydus Curtis have more than filled the bill for coach Hal Lamb's potent offense. The pair, entering Friday night's semifinal game against Lamar County, have combined for 135 receptions, right at 1,900 yards and 16 touchdowns.
"There have been some pretty good receivers here, and they have set the standard very high," Barnes said. "I knew coming into the season I had some big shoes to fill, and I did everything I could to live up to those expectations."
Most would say Rogers, the former University of Tennessee standout who played this past season at Tennessee Tech, and Palmer were the most physically talented set, but Barnes and Curtis may have the best complementary set of skills. Barnes, at 6-foot-3 and the possessor of great hands, is the ideal over-the-middle target for quarterback Taylor Lamb, while Curtis, with his 4.4 speed, is great at taking short screen passes and ripping off big yards.
"With those guys defenses have to pick their poison," offensive coordinator Mike Davis said. "Josh is the big, strong receiver who makes all the tough catches, while Tydus is smaller, but very fast. We've got other guys as well, and we're very blessed to have the kind of kids that work so hard."
Throw in running back Alex Urbano and other receivers Brett Moss and Keegan Mabry and it is also one the deepest groups in program history. With Taylor Lamb's elite accuracy, the receivers know they just have to find an opening and the ball will be waiting. The hardest part of being a Calhoun receiver, Barnes admits, might be just getting on the field.
"You have to wait your turn, no doubt," he said. "We've got a lot of goys who could play right now but probably won't until they're juniors or seniors, but what makes this program so good is that everybody buys into that. It really builds a team concept."