Five of the Top 10 football teams in Class AAAAAA will play their opening games in the Georgia Dome on Saturday in the Metro PCS Corky Kell Classic, an annual high school kickoff event in its 22nd year.
The football season officially began Thursday with a single game in Savannah, and it resumes Friday with 44 games. Four of those include ranked teams going head to head with Blessed Trinity at Westminster, Burke County at Thomson, Eagle’s Landing Christian at Washington County and Woodward Academy at Lovett.
On Saturday, ESPN will be in Norcross to televise the defending AAAAAA champion Blue Devils, ranked in the top six of six national polls, playing Booker T. Washington of Miami, the No. 1 team in USA Today.
But the main event will be at the Georgia Dome with the first of five games starting at 9 a.m., each televised by GPB.
“We don’t call it the kickoff classic any more, but the Kell games do symbolize the start of high school football in Georgia, particularly in our area for the last 20 years,’’ said Brookwood coach Mark Crews, who has been a part of the event as an assistant or head coach from its start in 1992. ‘’Regardless of who plays Friday, everybody recognizes this as the kickoff of the season.’’
Here are the five best story lines of the 2013 Corky Kell Classic:
- State contenders: The Corky Kell is a quick sort of the early contenders in Georgia’s highest classification. The Top 10 teams present are No. 2 Colquitt County, No. 4 North Gwinnett, No. 5 Camden County, No. 6 McEachern and No. 10 Grayson. Brookwood, Walton and Peachtree Ridge have been ranked in other preseason polls. Kell is ranked No. 8 in AAAAA.
- Star players: Three of the top 15 college prospects in Georgia, and eight of the top 50, will be playing. According to 247Sports’ composite rankings, they are No. 7 Kalvaraz Bessent of Camden County, No. 9 D.J. Smith of Walton, No. 13 Dante Sawyer of North Gwinnett, No. 27 Chris Williams of Camden County, No. 35 C.J. Leggett of North Gwinnett, No. 37 Nick Glass of Peachtree Ridge, No. 49 Orlando Brown of Peachtree Ridge and No. 50 Nate Brown of North Gwinnett. Bessent and Williams, both defensive backs, have committed to Alabama. Orlando Brown, an offensive lineman, has committed to Tennessee. The rest are uncommitted.
- New coaches: Welton Coffey is making his debut at Camden County’s head coach, replacing a legend in Jeff Herron, who took a job at Prince Avenue Christian after leading Camden to three state titles in 13 seasons. Another new coach is Chattahoochee’s Michael Owens, who was part of the Kell Classic last season as an assistant at Brookwood. Owens replaces Terry Crowder, the Hooch’s head coach during the 2010 state championship season. Crowder was hired away to Creekview.
- Replacement players: High school football is a revolving door of players, but in no case this season is that more true than at Grayson, which began 2012 ranked No. 1 in one national poll. This year’s team lost 21 starters, including the nation’s top prospect in Robert Nkemdiche (now at Ole Miss) but is ranked No. 10 primarily on the tradition of six straight 10-win seasons. Fans who saw the 2012 Kell Classic also remember Walton running back Tyren Jones, who rushed for 302 yards and five touchdowns in a 35-24 victory over Brookwood. He’s gone to Alabama. D.J. Smith, one of the state’s top 10 prospects, figures to get the bulk of Jones’ carries for Walton.
- New under center: Colquitt County coach Rush Propst said he wouldn’t trade new starter Daniel Mobley for any quarterback he’s ever coached, including John Parker Wilson, now in the NFL. Other new quarterbacks to watch are Camden County’s Dalton Sikes (replacing Georgia-signee Brice Ramsey), Walton’s Price Wilson (replacing Alabama-signee Parker McLeod), Joey McLane (brother of 2010 state title QB Ben McLane), Grayson’s Hunter Schuessler (brother of 2011 state title QB Nick Schuessler), Chattahoochee’s Tasleem “Taz” Wilson (move-in from Las Vegas) and North Gwinnett’s Hayden Sphire (son of head coach Bob Sphire).
Kell vs. Chattahoochee, 9 a.m.
Peachtree Ridge vs. Walton, 11:45 a.m.
Grayson vs. Colquitt County, 2:30 p.m.
North Gwinnett vs. Camden County, 5:30 p.m.
Brookwood vs. McEachern, 8:30 p.m.