The Valdosta Daily Times
There’s no doubt what Maurice Freeman wants for his birthday.
Freeman, Brooks County’s head football coach, wants a victory in the state quarterfinals today.
His team will try to give him that birthday present tonight, when it travels to Calhoun for a 7:30 p.m. game.
It will be a battle of the top two teams in Class AA. Calhoun is 12-0 and the defending state champion. The Yellow Jackets have been the No. 1 team in AA since the start of the season. Brooks is also 12-0 and ranked No. 2 in AA.
It’s a matchup that would seem better suited for the state championship game in two weeks. But unfortunately, with the way the brackets were set up, they have to play tonight.
“We’ve got to play Calhoun. Last day of November. It will be a great (game),” Freeman said.
Brooks narrowly defeated Macon County in the first round, 22-18, but routed McIntosh County Academy 49-21 last Friday. Both of those games were played in Quitman, unlike tonight’s game, which will be about 300 miles away from Veterans Stadium.
Calhoun has dominated its first two playoff games. The Yellow Jackets pounded Wesleyan 42-10 in the first round, then beat Washington-Wilkes 34-7 last week. Calhoun is currently riding a 27-game winning streak.
The Yellow Jackets’ spread offense is averaging 46 points per game this season.
The offense is led by senior quarterback Taylor Lamb, who has verbally committed to South Alabama. This season, Lamb has passed for 2,801 yards and 30 touchdowns, with only five interceptions. He has also rushed for 302 yards and nine touchdowns. A year ago, he passed for 3,600 yards and was a first-team All-State selection.
On Thursday, Lamb was named the Gatorade Georgia Football Player of the Year.
Lamb has a strong supporting cast that includes wide receivers Josh Barnes, Tydus Curtis, Brett Moss and Logan Walraven and running back Adam Urbano.
“We know exactly what they have,” Freeman said. “They’ve got a quarterback that’s a Division I quarterback. (They have) a good, solid running back. They’ve got three or four real talented receivers. No. 4 (Curtis) is fast. He catches the ball well. No. 7 (Barnes) is big and strong, and catches the inside routes. No. 3 (Moss) and No. 9 (Walraven) are utility guys; they do a little bit of everything and they block fairly well.”
Calhoun’s defense is giving up an average of 14 points per game. The Yellow Jackets allowed at least 35 points in their first three games of the season, but haven’t allowed more than 14 points in a game since then.
“Defensively, they run a 3-5,” Freeman said. “They stunt well, and they run pretty good. They team tackle, and they’re disciplined.”
Brooks County also runs a spread offense, and its quarterback is also its biggest star. Malkom Parrish has passed for close to 2,900 yards this year, and has also been the team’s top rusher. Last week, Parrish passed for 271 yards and five touchdowns against McIntosh.
And like Lamb, Parrish has plenty of weapons around him. Deric Herring, who has close to 1,000 yards receiving this year, scored four touchdowns last week (three receiving and one on an interception). Fellow receivers Sam Bradley and Atta Jenkins also caught touchdown passes. Running back Brandon Golden rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on only 11 carries.
Brooks’ defense forced eight turnovers in last week’s win.
What will it take for Brooks to win tonight?
“We have to minimize our mistakes. We’ve got to capitalize throwing the ball, which is what we do well. We’ve got to throw the ball well, and we’ve got to run the ball. We’ve got to continue to consistently run the ball,” Freeman said. “And we’ve got to keep it a low-scoring game, which means we cannot let them get up in the 30s and 40s, which is what they like.”
This will be the third time the Trojans and the Yellow Jackets have met in the playoffs in the last five years. Calhoun defeated Brooks in the semifinals in 2008 and the second round last year. But Freeman pointed out that the 2012 Trojans are a different team than those other two teams were.
“They put it on (us) last year,” Freeman said. “(However) we are a much better football team this year. Our record shows that.”
The Trojans will get on charter buses this morning and will head north to Calhoun. They will stop in Macon later this morning and do a walk through, then they’ll get back on the bus and make the rest of their drive.
Directions to Phil Reeve Stadium (100 Yellow Jacket St. in Calhoun): Take Interstate 75 north through Atlanta. Take Exit 312 (S.R. 53). Turn left onto S.R. 53 and go 1.1 miles, then turn right onto South Wall Street (U.S. 41). Go two miles, then turn left onto Court Street. Go 0.4 miles, then turn left onto Yellow Jacket Street. The stadium is on the right.