Sean Calhoun hasn’t really had to hype up his Carrollton High School football team for its trip to historic Barron Stadium this Friday at 7:30 p.m. because the credentials of the opponents speaks for itself.
Back-to-back Region 7-AAAAA championships, back-to-back state championships and an ongoing 30-game win streak has made No. 1 Rome far and away the class of AAAAA over the past two seasons.
And in the days leading up to the top-five brawl, the third-year head coach has been impressed with the poised approach his No. 5 Trojans have displayed in their preparation, one they’ve taken for every game this season.
“The one thing I do really admire is how their intensity and focus has been the same for every game. It’s awesome to see,” Calhoun said. “Now our execution hasn’t been the same, but the way they’ve looked at our first opponent and the way they look at this week’s opponent has been the same and I think that’s a very good characteristic for this team. They don’t say, ‘OK, this is a non-region game, so I don’t have to get as amped up’ or ‘This is a TV game, so I’m going to get more amped up.’ They’re staying at that same level because they have their goals set. That’s been refreshing to see. It’s been great.”
Carrollton (3-0, 1-0 Region 7-AAAAA) rolls into the ranked battle looking for its second region victory after putting on a clinic in its 52-3 victory over Villa Rica in the league opener last Friday night.
Putting up 477 yards on 7.8 yards per play, the Trojans were able to move the ball effectively on the Wildcat defense and converted all eight of their red zone opportunities into points.
Victories like that can instill confidence in a team trekking through the meat of its region schedule and that’s what Calhoun has seen in his players since last Friday evening.
“Did we play a perfect game? Absolutely not. Did we make some silly mistakes? For sure. But the biggest thing we gained was confidence,” Calhoun said. “If we’re focused, play fast and physical, and don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, then as I told our team, we’re amazing. If we don’t do one of those three things, then we’re just average. Our kids are a confident bunch right now and they saw on film what we’re capable of doing while still knowing that we haven’t played four quarters without some big mental errors. I’m hoping that we can eventually get to that point and we’re probably going to need to get as close to it as we can to beat this team that we’re going up against.”
The team he is referencing, of course, is the top-ranked Wolves (3-0, 1-0), who made easy work of No. 10 Kell in a 35-6 road victory last week.
While this year’s Rome squad doesn’t feature the murderers' row of current GBS defensive linemen like Adam Anderson, TJ Cammack, Ja’Quon Griffin and Jamarcus Chatman, plenty of all-star production from the previous two championship teams have returned to try for the three-peat.
Three-star quarterback prospect Knox Kadum is once again steering the ship of the Wolves’ offense under center, while senior back end defenders Marquis Glanton and Quavantae Holmes have already made key havoc plays for the Rome defense.
And then there’s running back and N.C. State verbal commit Jamious Griffin, who ran for 236 rushing yards, hauled in an additional 74 receiving yards and compiled four touchdowns in their 29-point win at the ‘Stockyard’ in Kell last Friday.
Even with the bounties of talent all of the field, what has stood out to Calhoun with this particular Rome team is its level of comfort in knowing exactly what to do under fourth-year head coach John Reid.
“I think they’re going to challenge us with just doing more on offense and defense because this being their fourth year with coach Reid.Everybody’s comfortable with their system,” Calhoun said “They can put more on their seniors. They’re putting more on their quarterback (Kadum). They’re doing more with No. 6 (Griffin) and No. 7 (Xavier Roberts-Donaldson). You can tell that they’re getting the best kids out in their school that need to be playing football and they’re putting them in more formations, more blitzes on defense and more looks because now all of these seniors have been with the same coaching staff for a while.”
And, as is the case every year when battling the Wolves, Calhoun knows his Trojans will have to rise to the same level of physicality to have a shot at taking down the top pack in the state.
“The one thing that they are going to do is be as physical as possible. They are a very well-coached football team that’s very physical and our kids know that,” Calhoun said. “We’ve got to find a way to play above that if we can and at minimum match it because if we don’t do that, then we don’t stand a chance.”
Friday night's contest will be televised live on GPB Sports and broadcast on KISS 102.7 FM.