The Calhoun Yellow Jackets 12s delivered more big plays Saturday in the D.L. Scott Coalition Bowl to defeat the East Ridge Mustangs 21-14 in a thrilling football game played in the Georgia Dome.
Calhoun head coach Scott Fletcher said the Georgia Dome experience was a thrill for his kids.
“Everyone from Calhoun was really impressed with the organization of the event and the hospitality of the Georgia Dome event organizers,” he said. “The game was very well played by two fine teams. The East Ridge team was very talented and very well coached. I was very proud of how our team fought and competed to get the win. We really played well in all phases of the game but the best thing is that all our kids played a lot and each contributed in the win. It was a wonderful experience.”
East Ridge head coach Stump Martin said it's hard to choose the right words to explain the experience the 11 and 12-year-old boys on both teams had playing in the Dome.
“Wow, that was fun, but once the kids got over the overwhelming surroundings they were extremely focused and played great football,” Martin said. “Our team started the season in Pikeville in early August; rode in to the Scenic City Super Bowl at Finley Stadium in November on Harley-Davidson’s and finished the season in the Georgia Dome on December 22. Those are memories they will never forget.”
The Yellow Jackets struck on their first possession when Zach Fuller ran off left tackle and dipped to the sidelines and sprinted 44 yards into the end zone for a 6-0 lead.
It didn’t take East Ridge long to answer. Calhoun booted the kickoff out of bounds and the Mustangs asked for another kick.
Stefon Walker took the kickoff at the 16 and made many Yellow Jackets miss on the way to an 84-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 6-6.
Calhoun took the lead by going to the air for big gainers, including a 39-yard TD pass from talented Yellow Jackets quarterback Brett Potts to Bralin Barton.
Fuller later added a 1-yard run and Brett Potts kicked the point after.
Nevertheless, East Ridge made it a one score game in the fourth quarter when Austin Chastain avoided the rush and hit DeVonte Tipton on a beautiful 68-yard TD pass. Chastain then connected with Jordan “Big Bird” Sims in the corner of the end zone for the 2-point conversion to make the score 21-14.
Both quarterbacks had good performances through the air.
Chastain utilized the abilities of Jordan Hughley, Walker, Sims and Tipton to complete passes for more than 120 yards.
“Both teams passed the football very efficiently for this age group,” Fletcher said. “But the difference in the game's outcome might have been our ability to run the football in timely situations to keep their offense off the field. Plus, our defense came up with some key stops in the third quarter and played very physical.”
The AstroTurf executive was impressed by the play of both teams.
“I had many spectators comment to me after the game about how fun the game was for them to watch and that the game didn't look like normal 12-year-old football, which is a compliment to both teams,” Fletcher said.
Martin said the D.L. Scott Coalition Bowl photographer best described the game during post game team pictures when he told his team, “Great game, you guys just ran out of time.”
"Calhoun’s offensive line was so good it frustrated our defense,” Martin said. “They held the ball too long in a game being played with 10 minute running quarters for us to drive the ball. I should have gone to the air sooner.”
Jeffrey Curtis, Ta Darrell Hodge, Blake Wright, Michael Ricketts and Hughley played well for the East Ridge defense that forced three fumbles.
The two teams were a part of an extravaganza of football that included six youth games and two high school senior all-star contests created by Dr. David L. Scott of Atlanta.
“Dr. Scott has his heart in the right place,” Martin said. “You wouldn’t believe the cost of renting the Dome for a day and he did it for all of the right reasons. We all were blessed to have had this experience.”