CALHOUN, Ga. - The thought had crept into Donnell Anthony's mind, and he didn't like it one bit. The Calhoun High School senior cornerback was staring at a possible unthinkable ending to his high school football career. After fumbling two kickoffs earlier, he did not want to go out that way.
With Lamar County deep in Calhoun territory in the final seconds of play and trailing by seven points in the Georgia Class AA semifinal game, Anthony made two consecutive game-saving plays. His interception in the end zone on the final play sealed a 21-14 Calhoun win and the program's fifth straight trip to the Georgia Dome.
"It's my senior year and I wasn't going to give up on my team, because they would not give up on me," said Anthony, whose fumbles, though recovered by teammates, were part of a second half of numerous unusual mistakes for the Yellow Jackets. "I wasn't going to give up on those plays, because I knew something was coming."
The upstart Trojans had the ball twice in Calhoun territory in the final quarter, but the Jackets' defense, much maligned in the early part of the season, arose each time.
"Our defense saved us," Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said. "It was one of those games where if anything could go wrong it did. You have to give a lot of credit to our kids. From slipping down to fumbling snaps to fumbling kickoffs, they still managed to find a way."
Lamar County, which played mostly zone pass coverage during its first 13 games, caught Calhoun off guard by switching to man-to-man coverage with a deep safety. The move limited Calhoun star quarterback Taylor Lamb to 10-of-14 passing and a career-low 64 yards, but it opened the running lanes. Senior running back Alex Urbano took advantage with 160 yards and two touchdowns, with Lamb adding 83 yards.
"They changed their defense to stop our passing game, so we had to run it," said Urbano, who had touchdown runs of 2 and 22 yards. "They just had five in the box, so we had to run it, and somehow we found a way to win. Their defense was very good."
It didn't help that the Jackets fumbled six times, and though they lost only one, the numerous negative plays helped keep the visitors in the game. Quarterback Lamb fumbled two snaps inside the Lamar 5 late in the third quarter, and Calhoun turned the ball over on downs at the 1. A touchdown would have made it a two-touchdown game.
Lamar, though, had to punt from the 9, with Calhoun beginning its possession at the Trojans' 39 early in the final period. A holding penalty set the Jackets back, however, and on fourth-and-7 a pass was incomplete in the end zone.
Lamar this time moved the ball behind the hard running of twins Lawrence and Lance Austin, but the drive stalled at the Calhoun 40. The Jackets managed two first downs, but a short punt set up Lamar at its own 33 with 2:18 remaining. Jeremy Fletcher ran hard for two first downs, and a Lance Austin pass to Quay Searcy moved the ball to the Calhoun 36 with 20 seconds left.
After two incomplete passes, Lamar tried a reverse pass, but the alert Anthony knocked the ball down in the end zone. On the next play he skied in front of Searcy to secure the interception and the game.
"I warned them all week that [the Trojans] were a great football team, and they proved me right," Coach Lamb said. "We did what we had to do to win. I never thought we could play this poorly and win a semifinal game, but we did."