Calhoun claims 45 bragging rights

Published 7:09 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

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In a gridiron battle with a history spanning back 57 years, The Calhoun School claimed bragging rights in “the 45” Friday night by securing a 32-12 victory over Central High School.

Tigers’ head coach Ervin Starr said the Lions brought a great game, but in the end, there could only be one winner.

“The Lions played well,” Starr said. “[We wish continued success to them. But, hey, go Tigers!”

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The hometown rivalry is a long-standing tradition, a faceoff between varsity teams from the two Lowndes County public high schools. Winners of the contest take home a trophy and gain bragging rights for the remainder of the season.

Ahead of the game, Lions’ head coach Corvin Johnson talked about the importance of the challenge and expectations for the outcome.

“I expect them to play one of their best games of the season because of what’s at stake,” Johnson said. “Currently Calhoun has two region wins and we have two region wins. They are fighting for a playoff spot as we are. This game is a playoff position and showing our dominance within the county.”

Calhoun took the lead early, with a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jeremy Hardy to Carmelo Brown at the end of the first quarter. 

Central answered with their own points in the second quarter by completing a short pass by quarterback Hunni McCall to No. 6, Jamarcus Webb.

The Tigers scored again in the second quarter, closing the first half at 14-6. As the game resumed, Calhoun widened their lead, but Starr said careless mistakes are something the team needs to work on.

“We had way too many pre-snap penalties,” Starr said. “I have to get those fixed going forward if we are going to have a chance to win games in the coming weeks.

On the field, the students are opponents, but off the field, Johnson noted that many are relatives and friends.

“Several are cousins that are playing each other,” Johnson said. “A lot of families are divided on the night of the game, but there is definitely a brotherhood between teams. I’ve got to be honest though, all that goes out the window during the game.”

Central fumbled on a kickoff in the third quarter setting the Tigers up for a 40-yard touchdown run by No. 8 Jaylen Lewis. Another 5-yard run by Lewis brought the score to 26-6.

After a fourth Calhoun touchdown, Central’s Myles Gary found the end zone with a 25-yard run, closing the gap to 32-12.

Starr expressed pride in the Tigers, who he said held up their end in both offense and defense. Keonte Abrams had the most complete game with one touchdown, one interception, and 11 tackles. Carmelo Brown received one touchdown and had 66 kickoff return yards.

Jeremy Hardy threw two touchdowns passes and ran for three, gaining 111 passing yards and 91 rushing yards. Starr said Bryan Lambert also had 13 tackles.

“We played well in all three phases of the game,” Starr said. “Our offensive and defensive coordinators developed great game plans and called an awesome game. I was especially proud of our defense.”

Johnson said the loss was not what the Tigers had expected to take home.

“It was tough,” Johnson said. “They just outplayed us. Some things were just more important than football, so we have to figure out which kids want it.”

According to Starr, the Tigers have a chance to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

“This victory puts us to the ‘must win’ next week,” Starr said. “We haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999 but we have an opportunity now. So, we must win.”

Calhoun hosts Notasulga for homecoming Friday and Central faces Autaugaville at home. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.