Crews: Kell Classic ‘advanced metro Atlanta football’

Mark Crews of Brookwood is one of five head football coaches in Saturday’s Corky Kell Classic who has won a state championship. But he has a sense of Corky Kell history that the others don’t.

Crews has been on the sidelines as an assistant or head coach for all 22 renditions of the annual opening-week event that showcases some of the state’s top teams and players in the Georgia Dome.

“People now take for granted that it is feasible to play high school games in the Georgia Dome, but if you go back 20 or 21 years, there was a whole lot of skepticism,” Crews said. “Can you make money? Can you make it work? Now people take it for granted. We’ve played the semifinal games and the championship games in there for several years now.”

Brookwood will play McEachern this season, as they did in 1992 when they started the Corky Kell and participated in the first football game ever held in the Georgia Dome. The Kell Classic added a fifth game last season and drew a record crowd of 33,000. That was despite the games being televised for the first time, by GPB.

The teams that the event draws is the main attraction. Twelve teams that have played in the Corky Kell in August have won state titles in December.

North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire said that there have been about 12 teams each season in the highest class that could win the state title with good healthy and lucky breaks.

‘’There’s been a pretty large pool of potential winners, and out of that pool, several are Kell-eligible type teams,’’ Sphire said. ‘’I don’t know if you can absolutely predict one of us will in it, but you’ve got to think there’s a pretty good chance that one could.’’

The coaches with state-championship pedigree are Crews and Mickey Conn of Grayson, who won their championships in Georgia, along with Colquitt County’s Rush Propst (five in Alabama), Camden County’s Welton Coffey (one in Florida) and North Gwinnett’s Sphire (one in Kentucky).

Another appeal to this season’s matchups is North-South intrigue. South Georgia teams that are participating include second-ranked Colquitt County and fifth-ranked Camden County. Colquitt plays No. 10 Grayson, and Camden plays No. 4 North Gwinnett.

Crews remembers a time when the metro Atlanta teams would have been the clear underdogs to South Georgia’s best.

In 1992, the only metro Atlanta state champions in the highest class in 20 years had been Morrow in 1987. Starting with Dunwoody in 1993, there have been 12 metro champions. There have been 10 from Gwinnett County alone.

“In 1992, everybody thought that anybody who knew how to play football had to live below Macon,” Crews said. “The Kell Classic, putting [Atlanta-area] football in a venue like that, has advanced metro Atlanta football.”

9 comments Add your comment


August 23rd, 2013
1:57 pm

What does a team from the southside of the metro have to do to get picked to play in the kell classic. Lovejoy should be playing this year but there are plenty of teams that should have been invited to play over the years from the southside. The only team i can think of was Starrs mill a few years back. why not just call it the north metro vs south georgia classic

Titletown USA

August 23rd, 2013
4:00 pm

Interesting comment Jason, I agree that Lovejoy should have been invited, if they were not.


August 23rd, 2013
5:25 pm

Cost to much !


August 23rd, 2013
6:38 pm

You have to pay the cost to be the……….? :-)


August 23rd, 2013
10:23 pm

It went up this year so each school has to commit to $26,000. On top of that, it is a 2 year commitment so the total commit is $52,000. If you don’t have a program that can span the 2 years and you don’t have the fan base to buy the presale tickets to cover your costs, it is tough to participate. I understand Colquitt included CK tickets in their season ticket package and covered the costs that way since for the S GA teams the travel is tough!


August 23rd, 2013
11:57 pm

My problem with this game has been Brookwood and McEachern being in it every year whether they had good teams or not. Yeah I know Dave Hunter and the principal for McEachern did all the leg work to get the game started, but if you really want the best teams, Brookwood and McEachern have to step out every once in a while.

Hubie Green

August 24th, 2013
10:46 am

Really time for the Corky Kell Classic to expand and invite some of the big boy programs from around the country. Kell and Chattahoochee have nice teams, but no way I’d pay to go see that game downtown.


August 24th, 2013
3:31 pm

Part of the reason is that the pairings are usually pretty equal, and you play a team that you otherwise would not sans a playoff game. So for the same reason that Alabama, Florida, and Georgia play teams like Troy instead of a tough out of conference team, some teams just don’t want to risk an early loss. McEachern and Brookwood go together like USC and the Rose Bowl. It could use some tweaking. I’ll tell you though, the refs need to consider that this is the first game of the season and the first game as starters for a lot of these kids. They don’t need to throw a flag every 3 plays just to get some more face time on the camera coverage. Crowds always look sparse too, but I think it’s a pretty good show and you get to see a lot of the elite players in one venue.


August 25th, 2013
8:33 am

How about changing up teams from metro area some?
East paulding? Carrollton? Cartersville?