2018 CORKY KELL GAME 2 SPRING PREVIEW, ROME-MARIETTA; PEACH COUNTY'S OSBORNE JUMPS FROM SOFTBALL TO BASEBALL
Today, Craig Sager II looks at Game 2 on the 2018 Corky Kell Classic schedule, a great matchup between Rome and Marietta at Barron Stadium. Rome's John Reid tells Sager his Class 5A defending champion team will have to manage high expectations; Marietta's Richard Morgan has high hopes for the Blue Devils as well, after they went toe-to-toe with eventual Class 7A champ North Gwinnett in the state quarterfinals. Also, Score's Seth Ellerbee spoke with Peach County's Savannah Osborne, a softball star who has become a contributor for the Trojans baseball team.
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In This Issue
2018 CORKY KELL GAME 2 SPRING PREVIEW; PEACH CO. BASEBALL FEATURE
Adairsville 4, Calhoun 2
Alcovy 4, Grovetown 2
Alexander 10, Douglas County 2
Aquinas 7, Southeast Bulloch 5
Arabia Mountain 5, Chamblee 2
Armuchee 10, Gordon Central 1
Athens Academy 5, Commerce 3
Athens Christian 9, Morgan County 7
Bleckley County 12, Toombs County 1
Blessed Trinity 5, Marist 2
Blessed Trinity 9, Marist 4
Brookwood 3, Loganville 1
Brunswick 7, Glynn Academy 0
Carrollton 9, Cass 2
Chiles (FL) 13, Lowndes 2
Clarke Central 7, Johnson-Gainesville 5
Cook 8, Early County 0
Dacula 11, Winder-Barrow 10
Decatur 10, Grady 0
Drew 5, Mt. Zion-Jonesboro 1
Druid Hills 1, Luella 0
Dutchtown 10, Stockbridge 9
East Paulding 7, Paulding Co. 3
Emanuel Co. Intitute 3, Vidalia 0
Evans 7, Lakeside-Evans 4
Galloway 13, Paideia 3
Georgia Military 6, Baldwin 3
Gordon Lee 3, Darlington 1
Grayson 9, South Gwinnett 5
Green Hope (NC) 7, Walton 1
Hawkinsville 10, Pacelli 4
Heritage-Conyers 3, Greenbrier 2
Hillgrove 11, Marietta 3
Jackson-Atlanta 11, Banneker 0
Jefferson 1, Stephens County 0
Jones County 11, Hampton 1
Kell 16, Hiram 2
Kennesaw Mountain 6, McEachern 0
King's Ridge Chr. 7, Whitefield Academy 2
Lakeview Academy 18, Riverside Military 8
Lanier 9, Apalachee 5
Locust Grove 8, Union Grove 2
Mary Persons 4, Spalding 3
Mill Creek 9, Duluth 0
Mount Paran 7, Pinecrest Academy 3
Mundy's Mill 8, Forest Park 4
Norcross 12, Central Gwinnett 1
North Atlanta 3, Dunwoody 2
North Hall 3, Union County 2
North Oconee 7, Madison Co. 3
North Paulding 9, North Cobb 1
North Springs 21, Lithia Springs 6
Northgate 6, Langston Hughes 0
Northwest Whitfield 4, Gilmer 0
Ola 12, Woodland-Henry 1
Pace Academy 17, McNair 0
Pace Academy 23, McNair 0
Parkview 15, Berkmar 0
Providence Christian 10, Towns County 0
Redan 16, Stone Mountain 0
Richmond Hill 3, Effingham County 0
Rockdale County 5, Archer 3
South Forsyth 3, Milton 1
South Paulding 13, New Manchester 0
Southwest DeKalb 6, Columbia 5
St. Francis 4, Mount Pisgah 2
St. Pius 3, Oconee County 2
Starr's Mill 15, Morrow 0
Tattnall County 5, Savannah Country Day 2
Telfair County 4, Appling County 3
Therrell 19, KIPP Atlanta 2
Trion 15, Mt. Zion-Carroll 7
Valdosta 5, Deerfield Beach (FL) 2
Walker 4, Fellowship Chr. 1
Walnut Grove 2, Flowery Branch 1
Ware County 7, Coffee 1
Wayne County 10, Statesboro 0
West Forsyth 1, Lambert 0
West Laurens 2, Upson-Lee 1
Westminster 9, Lovett 0
Westside-Aug. 2, Cross Creek 1
Woodward Academy 7, Eastside 6
Baldwin 6, Cross Creek 0
Blessed Trinity 3, Cherokee 1
Buford 3, Walnut Grove 1
Callaway 5, Temple 0
Cambridge 3, Clarkston 2
Cass 9, Hiram 2
Cross Keys 16, Miller Grove 0
East Jackson 10, Monroe Area 0
Lithia Springs 1, Central-Carroll 1
Lovett 9, McNair 0
North Oconee 8, Jefferson 7
Northgate 2, Newnan 1
Sequoyah 2, South Cobb 1
Union Grove 2, Eagle's Landing 1
Walton 6, North Cobb 0
Wesleyan 4, Greater Atl. Chr. 2
Westminster 2, St. Pius 0
Calvary Day 7, Hilton Head Prep, SC 0
Cass 6, Hiram 0
Cross Keys 12, Miller Grove 0
Dade County 5, Gordon Central 0
Greater Atl. Chr. 1, Wesleyan 0
Harlem 3, Josey 0
Landmark Christian 10, Our Lady of Mercy 0
Marist 4, Starr's Mill 0
Monroe Area 5, East Jackson 2
Mountain View 1, Duluth 0
Newnan 3, Northgate 0
North Oconee 2, Jefferson 0
Savannah Country Day 2, May River (SC) 0
Union Grove 2, Eagle's Landing 1
Carrollton 15, Union Grove 5
Collins Hill 14, Mountain View 8
Decatur 24, Druid Hills 2
Fellowship Christian 21, Riverwood 7
Johns Creek 18, Duluth 3
East Paulding 14, Carrollton 10
Fellowship Christian 17, Woodward Academy 5
Hillgrove 19, McEachern 5
Marist 19, Jackson-Atlanta 4
South Forsyth 16, St. Pius 5
Starr's Mill 16, Whitewater 2
West Forsyth 10, Cambridge 5
CORKY KELL CLASSIC
By Craig Sager II
Thursday, Aug. 16 at Barron Stadium (Rome)
8:30 p.m. Rome vs. Marietta
ROME SPRING PREVIEW
Last year's Rome team looked more like the product of a football dynasty than a team looking to defend the only state title in its program's history. But whatever the mission might have been, Rome was both successful and utterly unstoppable in achieving it. The Wolves' obliteration of the
competition last season engraved an average margin of victory of 41.3 points into a flawless 15-0 record. Head coach John Reid's defense had a pass rush spearheaded by Georgia signee Adam Anderson that made any passing play seem like a gamble; the group produced 114.5 tackles for loss on the year. Offensively, quarterback Knox Kadum already led the team to a state title as a sophomore and was back making even better decisions and plays as a junior. And fellow juniors Jamious Griffin (accounted for 28 of the team's 68 rushing touchdowns) and Xavier Roberts (caught 11 of the team's 22 touchdown receptions),provided an offensive balance that made Rome the highest scoring team in the entire state.
"I think there is a negative and a positive aspect to the success last season," explained Reid. "One of the positives is that kids understand the way we operate and that has become the new standard. The way we practice, lift, walk the halls. The negative part is the expectations, and I hope people don't put the unreasonably high ones on the kids. There may never be another team like we had last year in Rome history, or even in state history. Just a bunch of good kids with excellent chemistry that worked hard and enjoyed the game."
Winning back-to-back state titles has provided Reid with an abundance of championship experience on this year's roster, and the focus this spring will be on building depth around it.
"I think there are two aspects to that process this spring," said Reid. "Early in the season, you are going to play some games where even if you wanted to play kids most of the time, you can't get away with it in 95 degree weather. There's no question that a lot of kids are going to play and get experience. I was looking at film the other day and our backups were in on the defensive line last year in our first, second and third games, including the Carrollton and Kell games. It's really important in spring practice to see if what we thought we saw as backups last year is going to hold true for us this year."
Anchoring the offensive line is Aiden Gaines, a rising junior who coach Reid calls the best center in the state (and a guy who plays each snap like he wants to be the best center in the state). At right tackle is Quantavious "Tic" Leslie, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound rising junior, who, like Gaines, can get to the second level and turn quick screens into explosive track meets. The defensive line, and what it will look like without Anderson, is going to remain a question until Rome's season opener with Marietta on Aug. 16.
"The big question is going to be what we will be like on the defensive line this season," said Reid. "I think that we've got some kids that are really going to surprise some people. We've won like every JV game we've ever played since I've been at Rome. Those kids have got some good experience, and we have some really good linemen on both sides of the ball coming up that will help each other get better this offseason."
The Wolves will open up their spring practice on May 3 and will scrimmage North Paulding on May 18. Of course, Rome's highly anticipated season opener at the Corky Kell Classic has added to the offseason buzz.
"All I keep hearing about is how good of an opponent Marietta is for us," said Reid. "As far as Rome football is considered, it's a good starting point for us to see where we are at and I'm sure [Marietta] coach [Richard] Morgan is thinking along the same lines. It should be a great game for the fans. It being the first game of the season, we are still going to be seeing what we can do, so it should be an interesting matchup."
ROME'S 2018 SCHEDULE
8/16 Marietta (Barron Stadium)
8/31 North Clayton
9/07 At Kell
9/28 At Woodland-Cartersville
10/5 East Paulding
10/12 At Paulding County
10/19 At Hiram
10/26 Villa Rica
MARIETTA SPRING PREVIEW
The Marietta Blue Devils advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1994 last season, and with 18 returning starters, they are equipped to make another run toward the Class 7A crown this year.
"I think the way we finished, going as far as we did, I think did a lot for the confidence of the team we've got coming back and just the program overall," said head coach Richard Morgan. "We played really good football in the playoffs and you know we came a couple plays here or there away from beating North Gwinnett [in the quarterfinals], and who knows? We could've had a shot at winning the whole thing."
Morgan arrived at the school in 2016 and has seen a quick transformation. Quarterback Harrison Bailey stepped into the starting job as a freshman in Morgan's first year, and threw for 2,812 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Marietta's challenging region, however, left the Blue Devils out of the playoffs at 3-7. It wasn't until last season that all the right pieces began falling into place. Class of 2020 superstar athlete Arik Gilbert transferred over from Woodward Academy, where he had played sparingly as a freshman, and he contributed as a tight end and pass rusher to an already productive passing game and defensive line. UGA signee Azeez Ojulari (31 tackles for loss) and his younger brother B.J. Ojulari (19 tackles for loss) were forces up front, combining for 50 of the team's 87 tackles for loss. Receiver Ramel Keyton proved to be one of the state's most productive receivers with his 16 touchdown receptions and may be in store for an even bigger senior season.
"From where Marietta was to where we are now is a huge difference," said Morgan. "We're on a huge upswing now and with 18 starters coming back, I just feel like we are in a good position right now and the kids feel good about themselves and I think we are in a good spot where we can make another big run and build this program to an elite level."
Bailey started the first three games of Marietta's 2017 season but missed the next seven after suffering an injury in the fourth quarter of the team's 24-20 win over Pebblebrook (Bailey threw for a career-high 464 yards in the victory). Marietta went 3-4 in its next seven games and entered the postseason as the At Large team with a 6-4 record, although it hardly looked like the bubble team when Bailey returned from his injury. Marietta defeated Westlake 34-7 in the first round, topped Woodstock 38-28 in the second round and then fell in a 51-41 shootout to eventual state champion North Gwinnett in the quarterfinals. In his six combined starts last season, Bailey finished 126-of-203 passing (62 percent) for 1,824 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. His five-touchdown performance against North Gwinnett was his only loss.
"I think the biggest thing with us is that we weren't healthy until the playoffs hit," said Morgan. "We lost our quarterback for seven weeks and that takes a toll on a team. Guys came together and we managed to win some games without our quarterback, but when we got him back, everything started to click again. Going into spring practice I just think these guys expect to win now. I think last year was a matter of opening their eyes, getting their confidence up. They are good enough to play with anyone and beat anyone. Now that they are starting to do it, I feel like there is a bigger belief factor in what we've got going on and what we've been teaching. I think the kids have bought into what we've been doing to the program, so I'm expecting this spring to be very competitive. And we have some good young players that are expecting to be there at the end."
Morgan is not afraid to let his star quarterback take over games, and Bailey attempted more than 40 passes in three of his six starts last season. There's no telling what type of numbers a healthy Bailey and Keyton could put up this season, but one thing is for sure: The Marietta offense wants to air it out. As a result, the key this spring will be building an offensive line to protect Bailey, especially Week 1 against Rome in the MetroPCS Corky Kell Classic (Bailey was sacked eight times in the Pebblebrook game last year).
"One of our goals was to put together the toughest schedule we could with the best teams we could find in Georgia and also to get some national-caliber power programs on the schedule and I think we did that. Obviously, Marietta hasn't been in the Corky Kell in 20 years, so being considered again shows that our program is starting to be noticed again. We get to play a two-time state champion with a very good quarterback coming back so obviously that is a huge challenge out of the gate to play a team of that caliber. You know, Rome might've been the best team in the state last year. Now it is up to us to show that we belong there. We want [our players] to be challenged so they are ready for the playoffs and ready for when they go to college. I like their attitude and I like their work ethic this offseason, and no doubt about it, Rome is as big of a challenge as there is on the schedule."
Marietta's spring practice will begin on Wednesday, May 2 and will conclude on May 17 at Reinhardt College with a scrimmage against Sequoyah.
"This is the most excited the kids have been in the three years that I have been here," said Morgan. "It shows in the weight room, their workouts are enthusiastic, the team is getting so much stronger and we are so much further ahead than we were in our previous offseasons. I've only had two, but we are at the height of excitement and energy right now. And it's good because it permeates the whole team, the school and through the athletic department. They can't wait. They are looking forward to practicing, because they know that we have a chance to do a lot of special things this year."
MARIETTA'S 2018 SCHEDULE
8/16 Rome (BA)
8/24 Good Counsel, MD
8/31 Collins Hill
9/22 At St. Johns College HS, DC (D)
10/05 North Paulding
10/12 At McEachern
10/19 North Cobb
10/26 At Hillgrove
11/02 Kennesaw Mountain
By Seth Ellerbee
Peach County baseball's Osborne proves she can hang with the boys
On game days, Peach County softball player Savannah Osborne laces her cleats, packs her bat bag, puts her hair up in a ponytail and heads to the field. Before she leaves the house, she grabs her baseball glove and a few baseballs.
Softball isn't her only talent. The senior also plays for the Peach County baseball team.
"It happened so innocently," said Peach County baseball coach Jeff Bailey. "We all do favors for each other, and the softball team needed help driving to
||Courtesy of Peach County HS
a ball game one day, so I helped them. One of the assistant softball coaches is one of my baseball assistants and they'd been telling me, 'Now, we have acouple of girls who could play for you.' So I watched and saw that they could compete on the boys level."
Osborne, who plays first base for Michael Deese's Lady Trojans softball team, stood out above the rest and earned a spot on the baseball team shortly afterward.
"I was really not expecting for me to like it so much," she said of her transition to baseball. "I kind of expected them to be hard on me and not accept me, you know, coming into a sport that they've known for so long. The first day I came out here, I was really stressed out because I didn't think they'd like me and I didn't know what to think. But when I got out here and they got to know me and my skill set on the baseball field, it showed them that I could stick with them. Now that they know me, they're really accepting, and they mess around a lot, and it keeps things loose and fun."
Once she became an established member of the team, Osborne started working her way into the lineup.
"She gets about one at-bat in most games now," said Bailey. "She hasn't transitioned to being an every-day player just yet. ... She's working hard."
The transition to hitting a baseball hasn't been the easiest, but Osborne is learning. She has hit a few line drives that went directly to the opponent, resulting in outs. But the one solid base hit she has had came after an opposing catcher engaged in some gamesmanship, which has been a common occurrence, she said.
"You're a girl, what are you doing here?" or a similar comment, she recalls. She used it as fuel.
And once the ball cracked off the bat, resulting in her first base hit, the only thing she could hear came from her bench.
"When I was running the bases," she said. "The whole team was just cheering, and it just brings up your spirits. It really helps your confidence level. I was really down on myself because I didn't get the hit that I was wanting to. Everyone on the other team wanted me to strike out because I am a girl, and I wanted to show them that I can stick with them."
For Osborne, the ability to move into a male-dominated sport has been motivation to do better in both sports. She is hoping to earn a college scholarship for softball. But the transition to baseball has made her realize that the ingrained gender divide doesn't apply to everything.
"My transition shows that we can really open up where we, as females, are really allowed to go," she said. "I'm sure that we can just go into a lot of other places that are [supposed] to be either male or female sports. There shouldn't be boundaries in what a girl or guy can play. If a girl can play baseball, then we can kind of extend where you think that any gender can go.
"Some of the guys here tell me that some of their muscles are more built up than girls and that we can't hit or throw as far. I guess some of that is true, but there are some girls who can come out here and do the same thing that baseball players do. I'm sure I am stronger than some of the boys on the team or other teams we play, and that helps out a lot."
Peach County baseball is 6-12 this season, 2-3 in Region 4-AAA. The Trojans' season has been highlighted by a pair of blowout victories against Kendrick (14-0, 14-4) on March 8 and a 20-9 thrashing of Warner Robins on March 21.
© Score Publishing, LLC 2017