By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
The last two spread offenses Kell faced hung 103 points on the Longhorns. Saturday morning at the Georgia Dome, the Kell defense changed that narrative.
The Longhorns held Chattahoochee’s multiple-look spread under 200 yards passing, sacked Cougar quarterback Tasleem “Taz” Wilson four times, and gave up just one touchdown – on a running play – en route to a 26-16 win in Game 1 of the Corky Kell Classic on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
It was the second consecutive victory for Kell (1-0) over Chattahoochee (0-1) in the Kell Classic, as the Longhorns won 19-8 last season. Three weeks after that win, Lassiter and quarterback Eddie Printz (now at Missouri) blasted Kell 42-13. Then after Kell reeled off eight consecutive wins, eventual Class AAAAA champion Gainesville and AJC Super 11 quarterback Deshaun Watson defeated the Longhorns 61-42 in the second round of the state playoffs.
“[The Lassiter game] was so long ago, and honestly we didn’t prepare our team as well as we should have for that game,” Kell head coach Derek Cook said after Saturday’s win. “And Gainesville was such a great team, but obviously we didn’t do a good job of defending those spread teams. We learned a lot of different things and our kids worked hard over the summer.”
Offensively Saturday, Kell rode the big-play ability of WR/DB Julian Burris. The senior, who was injured for most of last season, had 231 total yards and two touchdowns. He was also part of the Longhorn secondary that held the Cougars’ dynamic receiving trio of Avery Ward, Kieron Ashley and Colin Lisa to combined 13 catches for 152 yards.
“We learned to keep our man in front of us and not give up big plays,” Burris said of the defensive effort. “I was hurt last year and so I knew with this being my senior year I was going to come out and have big games.”
“It’s great to see that,” Cook said of Burris’ effort. “He’s been in our program since sixth grade and he’s been overlooked a little bit. But he’s a great player and I’m glad people were able to see that today.”
Burris’ first big play answered Chattahoochee’s first drive of the season. The Cougars looked in mid-season form as Wilson led the offense on a 16-play, 80-yard march that consumed seven minutes of clock. Ashley darted in from 5 yards out to give Chattahoochee an early 7-0 lead after Adam Adbellaoui’s extra point kick.
But on Kell’s first possession of the season, Burris took a sideline hitch from senior quarterback Matt McGuigan, sidestepped a tackler and danced down the sideline 80 yards for a score. The Longhorns missed the PAT and trailed 7-6 midway through the first quarter.
Another long Chattahoochee drive on its next possession resulted in a 47-yard field goal by Abdellaoui to boost the Cougar lead to 10-7. But just before the half, on fourth-and-nine from the Chattahoochee 39-yard line, Kell senior Errol Breaux got behind the secondary and McGuigan found him for a touchdown strike that gave the Longhorns a 13-10 lead at intermission.
Burris then provided the winning margin when he returned the second half kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to put Kell up 20-10. After two third quarter field goals by Abdellaoui pulled Chattahoochee to within 20-16, Burris appeared to strike again when he returned a punt 52 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. But a penalty (block in the back) nullified the run.
Still, Burris found another way to put the game away on the Longhorns’ final possession. With 4 minutes remaining, Burris caught another sideline hitch from McGuigan, but instead of bolting for a touchdown, this time he hit Breaux down the seam for a 61-yard gain to the Cougar 16-yard line. Four plays later, senior Jay Moxey – behind the bulldozer-like blocking of seniors Trey Cowart and Corbett Mendelson, and sophomore James DeMatto – muscled in from 5 yards out to provide the final margin of victory for Kell.
The Longhorns will take a week off before traveling to Woodstock (1-0), a 34-6 winner over John’s Creek Friday night. Chattahoochee will host Forest Park (0-0) next week.
Chattahoochee 10 0 6 0 16
Kell 6 7 7 6 26
C – Kieron Ashley 5 run (Adam Abdellaoui kick)
K – Julian Burris 80 pass from Matt McGuigan (kick failed)
C – Adam Abdellaoui 47 fg
K – Errol Breaux 39 pass from McGuigan (Cameron Massung kick)
K – Burris 93 KO return (Massung kick)
C – Abdellaoui 31 fg
C – Abdellaoui 47 fg
K – Jay Moxey 5 run (pass failed)