Martin Luther King High coach Corey Jarvis has heard all the chatter about tonight’s game against Southwest DeKalb. Never mind that it’s an intense neighborhood rivalry between proud schools located four miles apart.
“Basically everybody has been saying it’s the Georgia commit against the Florida commit,” Jarvis said with a chuckle. “It’s Georgia-Florida.”
At least to recruitniks it is.
The game, which will be played tonight at 8 at Clarkston’s Hallford Stadium, will feature two of the state’s top-rated running backs. MLK’s Mack Brown is considered the No. 1 tailback in the state. He committed to the Florida Gators last month. Southwest DeKalb’s Kendrun Malcome is also rated among the state’s best backs. The fact that they’ve committed to bitter SEC rivals makes the matchup that much more enticing.
So interest in tonight’s contest spreads out well beyond the Lithonia-Decatur line.
“Like I kept telling Mack, he’s not playing for Urban Meyer yet,” Jarvis said.
Of course, neither of the coaches nor their players are viewing the game like that.
“Well, it’s good for the fans,” said Southwest DeKalb coach Buck Godfrey, who has another Georgia commitment in defensive end T.J. Stripling. “But I can tell you our kids haven’t mentioned anything about that at all. It’s one big family going against another big family. It’s the first game of the season and we just want to play well.”
Said Jarvis: “They have a good back and we have a good one. They’re going to give the ball to theirs and we’re going to give it to ours. But it always comes down to how the offensive and defensive lines perform.”
Of course, this will be Round Two for the two backs, who have known each other since middle. Brown got the best of the matchup last year, gaining 175 yards and a touchdown in MLK’s 21-12 victory. Malcome’s stats were not immediately available but he didn’t score and Brown promises his buddy didn’t have 100 yards.
“Not even close,” Brown says with a playful snicker.
In truth, comparing the two players is like comparing apples and oranges. Malcome is a 6-foot, 215-pound battering ram that makes his living between the tackles. The 5-11, 185-pound Brown is lightning quick with speed to burn.
“To me they’re two totally different backs,” Jarvis said. “Ken is more of a bruiser. Mack’s more of a slasher has a little more speed. Not that Ken doesn’t have some speed. Ken does some things better than Mack and vice-versa.”
Said Godfrey: “Style wise I can only talk about our guy. He’s a combination of speed, power and vision. He can find a crack where you don’t think there is one. HIs style is his own style and you come away black-and-blue trying to stop him. Some people try to compare him to Herschel [Walker] but I think he’s more like Earl Campbell without the wear and tear.”
For the two backs it’s anything but a bitter rivalry. It’s more like sibling rivalry. They’ve been friends since middle school when they first competed against each other in rival little league parks. And the teams compete in different regions and classifications. The Panthers play in Class AAAA, the Lions in AAAAA.
“I’ve been knowing him since the sixth grade,” Brown said. “We talked on the phone for an hour last week.”
I asked if Friday’s game came up in the conversation?
“I told him we were going to beat them again,” said Brown, sounding much like a Gator.