If there is a model of consistency in high school football in the state of Georgia, coach Hal Lamb and the Calhoun Yellow Jackets just might be it. The reason why? Family.
Coach Lamb and his brother, Bobby, grew up throwing a football in the front yard under the watchful eye of their father, Ray. Bobby would be the quarterback, Hal the receiver.
Ray was the head football coach at Commerce High School from 1967-1988, and he must have liked what he saw from his boys. By 1981, Bobby was his quarterback, and Hal was his two-time all-state receiver.
In 1981, the Lamb brothers helped put together a 13-1-1 record for the Tigers and defeated Greene County 28-14 to hand their father his only state championship at Commerce. You could say it was a dream come true for the Lamb family.
While in high school, Hal did not limit his talents to football. He also played golf, tennis and basketball. He still holds the basketball scoring record of 52 points in a game. Lamb garnered attention from the University of West Georgia where he was a two-time all-conference football player and team captain in 1986. He also earned MVP honors in tennis while in college.
After college, Hal Lamb had a stint as an assistant at West Georgia before moving into the high school coaching world. Cartersville was the first high school that came calling, and Lamb worked as receivers coach under Mike Earwood.
He quickly worked his way up to offensive coordinator and helped lead Cartersville to the 1991 Class AA state championship by defeating Cedar Grove 28-19.
Coach Earwood left Cartersville in 1995 to take the head job at Upson-Lee, and Lamb was brought along. When Earwood left Upson-Lee to take on the challenge of building a new program at Starr’s Mill, Lamb was appointed head coach at Upson.
In 1999, after two seasons at Upson, Lamb left to take the job at Calhoun, and the legend began.
At Calhoun, Lamb has amassed a record of 202-34. The Yellow Jackets have won 15 consecutive region titles and two state titles. In 2011, Calhoun defeated Buford 27-24 in overtime. In 2014, it defeated Washington County, 27-20.
Calhoun is rebuilding after losing a solid group of players from last year. The Jackets started slow, losing two of the first three games — 28-13 against Dalton and an embarrassing 56-0 loss to Cartersville. But since the Cartersville loss — and a return to Class AAA competition — Calhoun has not been challenged. The closest game has been a 29-3 victory against Adairsville.
Calhoun carries a No. 4 ranking in Class AAA and a 6-2, 3-0 record into Friday’s game vs. Bremen
Lamb took time Monday to answer a few questions in a wide-ranging Q&A:
Q. Tell me about your time at Commerce, playing under your father.
A. Well, you know, we had a good career there. We actually won a state title my junior year. My brother was the quarterback and I was the wide receiver and my dad was the coach. It really doesn’t get much better than that. My brother graduated and went to Furman to play and my dad moved me to quarterback my senior season and we went 8-3, so it was a good career.
Q. What did you learn from seeing your father coach.
A. The biggest thing I learned from him was how to treat people. He was a people person. He knew how to treat people. He would do anything in the world for his players, and the players loved him for it. That’s probably the biggest thing I learned from dad.
Q. What was the move that got you to Cartersville?
A. I stayed one year at West Georgia as a graduate assistant, and then my first job was at Cartersville for coach Earwood. You know, Earwood was the offensive line coach at West Georgia and when he got the job at Cartersville, he took me with him. My first few years I was coaching running backs and teaching P.E. We stayed there eight years and were fortunate enough to win a state championship in 1991. It was a lot of fun at Cartersville, and coach Earwood is a good man.
Q. What is the key to consistency in your program?
A. You have to have high-character kids who like to work and like to do what they’re coached to do. You got a coaching staff that cares about the kids and works the kids and coaches the kids. And then you have a community that cares about the football program. I think all of those play a big part in being consistent. We have a very low turnover rate. My offensive coordinator has been here since I have been here. My defensive coordinator has been here 10 or 12 years. A guy that played for me at Upson-Lee has been here with me for about the same time. It has just been a very low turnover. We have a bunch of coaches who have kids who are in the program, and that makes them stay, as well.
Q. What has changed in high school football in the last 20 years?
A. I guess the recruiting part is probably the No. 1 thing that has changed, in my opinion. And the transferring from school to school. Back 20 years ago, that was not heard of. Kids wanted to play for their local schools, and that was the bottom line. They always wanted to grow up being a Commerce Tiger or a Calhoun Yellow Jacket, but now-a-days you have so many kids that leave programs and go to other programs. It’s just very concerning. Then you have the recruiting. There wasn’t any ratings 20 years ago about four-star, five-star, three-star. Recruiting, to me, has just gotten really out of hand. I really don’t know what has caused it. I think the recruiting services. And then the college coaches feel like if they don’t offer a 9th- or 10th-grader, then they’re behind. It is a very difficult situation for the kids. With college coaches, sometimes it is “win at all costs,” and that kind of bothers you a little bit. All of them aren’t like that, but it is bothersome because we want kids to play for their high school team. The recruiting will take care of itself, if you play for your high school team. But we have so many kids now … yeah they’re playing for their team, but the No. 1 priority is getting a scholarship, not to help the team win.