Schedule Breakdown: Calera charts path through schedule to return to postseason

Published 11:34 am Wednesday, August 2, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

Calera will have a familiar path to take to reach the 6A playoffs, but they’ll do so with a new coach leading the way.

Jerad Holder took over as the interim head coach following Jason Hamlin’s decision to down on Tuesday, July 25, and Holder will guide a team full of young, promising talent through a wide-open and challenging region and multiple 7A rivalry games where their athleticism will be tested.

First, Calera takes on Spain Park for their home opener on August 25. While a win over a 7A side may seem unlikely in a head coach’s first game, Calera only lost by four on the road to the Jags last season. If their raw talent comes together quickly, they could catch Spain Park off guard.

After that, Calera will face another 7A county opponent in Chelsea on September 1. The two sides have kept their series alive despite Chelsea moving up to 7A last year, and Calera won last year’s matchup, 10-6, at home. It won’t be easy to repeat the feat on the road, especially with Chelsea’s improvements on both sides of the ball since they met last year, but after seeing how to win last year, Calera will believe they can do it again.

The Eagles open their region schedule against Ben Russell at home on September 8. This will be a tough early test for Calera, but that also means it is a chance to make a statement in the first week of region play.

The next week on September 15, Calera will host Homewood. The Patriots were the region champions and a quarterfinal team a year ago, which makes this a big showdown between two playoff teams from last year. Both teams have a lot of changes going into this year, which should be very interesting to watch play out on the field against each other.

Then, Calera will travel to Chilton County on September 22. Chilton County was last place in the region, but have one of the top linebacker prospects in the nation in Demarcus Riddick, so Calera will have to find a way to neutralize him to take a win again this year.

The Eagles will have their bye week on September 29, which will be a good chance to rest and reevaluate at the midpoint in the region schedule.

After their week off, Calera faces another playoff team from last year in Pelham on October 6. The key in this matchup will be limiting the Pelham offense, which posted 31 points on the Eagles last year in Calera, while also maximizing the most from Pelham’s own offensive drives.

Calera will then come home to take on Briarwood on October 13. The Lions have another stout defense this year, and how the Calera skill positions match up with them on offense will be a key battle to watch. The game will also be the second-to-last matchup in region play, and since Calera and Briarwood finished near each other in the standings last year, this game could factor into the battle for the playoffs.

On October 20, Calera will square off with Helena on the road in what should be one of the most emotionally charged games anywhere in the area this season. Last year, Calera beat Helena, 52-51, in quadruple overtime thanks to late heroics from Braylyn Farrington. Not only was the game an instant classic, but Helena’s loss gave Calera the head-to-head tiebreaker, which led to Calera reaching the playoffs after Helena lost to Ben Russell the next week. Helena has the game circled on their calendar, so Calera will need to show up ready for a fight against a Helena side with many stars returning.

Calera’s playoff fate will be decided after the Helena game, but they will close their schedule with two intriguing non-region games. The first will be a trip to Gadsden City on October 27. Calera lost to the Titans by just four last year even though Gadsden City were the top team in their region and a second-round team. It will be harder this year as the Eagles have to go on the road, but if Calera can repeat the success they found against the Titans last year, this could be another close game.

Finally, Calera will close their regular season schedule with a showdown against McAdory on Thursday, November 2. It’s a showdown of two playoff teams from 2022, and Calera will look to close the regular season with a win in the final home game for their senior class.