QB - Tate Rodemaker
RB - Jahmyr Gibbs
RB - Derionte Kemp
WR - Chauncey Magwood
Lee County, Jr.
WR - Tarrell Roberts
TE - Jaheim Bell
OL - Parker Rogers
Lee County, Sr.
OL - De'Leon Madria
Bradwell Institute, Sr.
OL - Nick Lundeberg
OL - John Williams
OL - Jordan Williams
ATH - Raheem Gaines
Mundy's Mill, Sr.
PK - Jude Kelley
DL - Simeon Barrow
DL - Marlon Krakue
DL - Makius Scott
DL - JaQuari Wiggles
LB - Tyson Meiguez
LB - Wesley Steiner
Houston County, Sr.
LB - Phillip Webb
LB - Kameron Wilson
Mount Zion (Jonesboro), Sr.
DB - Rashad Battle
DB - Isaiah Dunson
DB - Javier Morton
DB - Victor Pless
P - Diego Huerta
Douglas County, Sr.
Which two teams defeated reigning state champion Milton last season?
THURSDAY'S QUESTION What school did McEachern head coach Franklin Stephens lead to two state titles?
CORKY KELL SCHEDULE
Thursday, Aug. 22
at BARRON STADIUM
*Calhoun 38, Ridgeland 8
*Marietta 48, Rome 14
Friday, Aug. 23, at COOLRAY FIELD
*5:30 p.m. Tucker vs. Archer
*8:30 p.m. Milton vs. Buford
Saturday, Aug. 24, at MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM
*9 a.m. Kell vs. Mays
*11:45 a.m. Norcross vs. Walton
*2:45 p.m. Colquitt County vs. North Gwinnett
*5:45 p.m. Brookwood vs. McEachern
*8:45 p.m. Mill Creek vs. East Coweta
The Stephenson era at Calhoun is underway.
Calhoun answered several of the offseason’s lingering questions Thursday when the Yellow Jackets defeated Ridgeland 38-8 in the Corky Kell Classic at Rome’s Barron Stadium.
It was coach Clay Stephenson’s first game as head coach at Calhoun after taking over for the retiring Hal Lamb. How would he fare? And the Yellow Jackets, ranked third in Class AAA, took the field without a number of key players who graduated last season. How would they fare?
So far, so good. Stephenson and Calhoun are flawless.
“That is right,” said Stephenson, laughing. “These seniors have put in the work in the last four years, and it feels great for them. They put in a lot of hard work and didn’t play much, and I know it’s special for them.”
A 17-point second quarter put away the game.
Calhoun dug into its bag of tricks to take a 7-0 lead in the second quarter when quarterback Jake Morrow tossed the ball back to Jake Prather behind the line of scrimmage. Prather then passed to a wide-open Ethan Crump for a 28-yard touchdown with 10:49 remaining.
With 5:23 left in the before halftime, Morrow capped off a 9-play, 55-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to give Calhoun a 14-0 lead after Eduardo Fajardo’s extra point. As time expired, Fajardo connected on a 19-yard field goal to give Calhoun a comfortable 17-0 lead at the break.
Jerrian Hames broke free with 9:27 left in the third quarter and ran for 53 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown to push the lead to 24. With 3:40 left in the third quarter, Hames scored again on a 7-yard run to put Calhoun ahead 31-0. Chris Lewis scored the final touchdown on a 16-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
“He is going to be a special player for us,” Stephenson said of Hames. “He just runs the ball hard and is going to be a very, very special player for us.”
Hames finished with 19 carries for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Morrow was 11-of-21 passing for 116 yards and rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown. Crump finished with two receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown.
“They are an extremely athletic team,” Crump said of Ridgeland. “But we always say that nobody does what we do. We strongly believe that, and I think that showed tonight.”
Calhoun held Ridgeland to nine first downs and 134 yards of offense. Terrence Roberts scored Ridgeland’s touchdown on a 5-yard run with 1:24 left in the game and finished with 73 yards on 13 carries.
Marietta avenged its 51-41 loss to Rome in last year’s Corky Kell Classic, downing the Wolves in their home stadium 48-14. It was Rome’s first regular-season loss since September 2016.
As in last year’s Corky Kell matchup, Marietta quarterback Harrison Bailey, a 4-star Tennessee commit, and Arik Gilbert, the Blue Devils’ 6-foot-5, 253-pound tight end and athlete, put up gaudy numbers. Bailey finished 19-of-30 for 367 yards passing and five touchdowns, with nine completions, 205 yards and two touchdowns going to Gilbert. Marietta running back Kimani Vidal led the Blue Devils with 115 yards rushing on 23 carries and two touchdowns.
Marietta, No. 2 in the Week 1 Score Atlanta rankings for Class AAAAAAA, went up 13-0 before Rome took its first offensive snap, and the Blue Devils led 27-0 at halftime after gaining 306 yards on 33 plays in the first half to Rome’s 133 yards on 27 plays.
Marietta’s opening touchdown drive was a 10-play, 80-yard possession that was kept alive by two key third-down conversions. Bailey scrambled for 8 yards on a third-and-3 that brought the Blue Devils to the Rome 35. three plays later, Bailey hit Gilbert for a short pass that turned into a 21-yard gain on third-and-1, taking Marietta down to the 5. Vidal capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
On the ensuing kickoff, a big hit on the return caused a Rome fumble that was recovered by Marietta at the Wolves 18. Just two plays later, the Bailey-to-Gilbert connection struck again, as Gilbert hauled in a one-handed catch near the back of the end zone to put the Blue Devils up 13-0 after a blocked PAT.
Rome (Score Atlanta Class AAAAA No. 3) mounted a tough drive on its next possession, but it stalled at the Marietta 25 and ended on a missed 42-yard field-goal attempt.
Marietta capitalized again. The Blue Devils struck quickly thanks to a 49-yard pass from Bailey to Gilbert on a third-and-11 that moved the team to the Rome 32. Vidal took a short pass from Bailey, followed blockers to the left side and stayed up for a 31-yard touchdown to make it 20-0 Marietta with 2:43 remaining in the first quarter.
Marietta’s third-down mastery continued in the second quarter. Bailey found Vidal on a screen pass that went for 25 yards on third-and-10, setting the Blue Devils up at Rome’s 17. Then Ricky White, an offseason transfer from Wheeler and a Michigan State commit, took a short pass on third-and-9 from the Rome 16 and tiptoed down the sideline for a touchdown at the 8:51 mark, bowling over a Rome defender at the goal line and drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty for taunting after the play.
The Rome defense got its first stop of the night on Marietta’s second possession of the second quarter, forcing a punt after the drive stalled at the Wolves 41.
On the first possession of the second half, Rome scored its first points at 8:32 on a 19-yard pass from Caleb Ellard to Jaquavious Wise, as Wise fought off defensive pass interference to pull down the catch. The Wolves then forced Marietta into a three-and-out after the kickoff, as the Blue Devils lost 6 yards on the possession, and struck quickly after the Marietta punt to make it a two-score game. On the second play of the Rome possession, Ellard hit Wise in stride over the middle, and Wise sprinted untouched for the 53-yard to make it a 27-14 score.
But Marietta regained control of the game on the next possession. The Blue Devils gutted out a tough drive against a revitalized Rome defense, with the key play coming on yet another third down. On third-and-22 from the Rome 33, Bailey whipped a pass over the middle to Gilbert, who bounced off several tackles and surged past the first-down marker. Two plays later, Bailey again found Gilbert over the middle for a 9-yard score to again put Marietta up by 20 points, 34-14, with 1:44 left in the third quarter.
Rome moved the ball into Marietta territory on the next drive, but failed to convert a fourth-and-2 from the Blue Devils 45 and Marietta took over with 10:55 left to play. Another long pass play from Bailey to Gilbert—this time a 39-yard gain to the Rome 15—moved the Blue Devils into the red zone, but the Rome defense forced a fourth down from the 20. Bailey dropped back and fired a pass to White in the end zone to make it a 41-14 score with 8:07 left.
Marietta tacked on a final touchdown on a Vidal 2-yard run with 5:05 to cap the scoring.
White caught six passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns for Marietta, and safety Rashad Torrence led the Blue Devils defense with 8.5 total tackles and one tackle for loss.
For Rome, Ellard finished 11-of-22 for 132 yards passing and two touchdowns, with Wise catching four balls for 95 yards and two scores. Wolves running back Ahijah Blackwell rushed for a game-high 132 yards on 21 carries.
CORKY KELL PREVIEW: COLQUITT COUNTY VS. NORTH GWINNETT
Colquitt County meets North Gwinnett for a rematch of the 2017 AAAAAAA state championship game and last year’s quarterfinals in one of the most anticipated matchups of the 2019 season. In brief, the teams first met in 2011 in the second round of the AAAAA playoffs where the Packers won 17-7. North Gwinnett won the 2012 regular-season contest 16-14. In 2015, Colquitt commanded a 45-14 victory in the regular season before the championship meeting in 2017, won on a North Gwinnett field goal. Colquitt County got its revenge last postseason, blanking the Bulldogs 45-0 in the quarterfinals.
“It’s kind of developed into a nice little rivalry,” said Colquitt County head coach Justin Rogers. “Which is kind of odd, being so far away from each other and not in a region. But it really has kind of generated into that. We went against them this summer at the UGA 7-on-7 and you could kind of get that feel from both sides, that it’s become a nice little rivalry and become very important. That’s always good to kind of start your year off like that. It’s in a great venue at the Benz in a great Kickoff Classic at the Corky Kell and then you get to play an opponent that has a little rivalry to it. It keeps you focus driven at what it is.”
According to North Gwinnett head coach Bill Stewart, any game against Colquitt County has a little bit more than a so-called “normal” game.
“For us, when you go against Colquitt, there’s always that ‘thing.’ They’ve been a powerhouse for a long time,” Stewart said. “You love coming out for the first game and having that kind of contest. But our kids know what it takes to play them.”
The Packers are transitioning from the Rush Propst era to a team led by Rogers, who coached at AAAAA power Jones County for five seasons. On offense, Colquitt returns its up-tempo style with most of its moving parts returning.
“We will be a multi-personnel grouping offense,” said Rogers. “Up-tempo offense and we will take what the defense gives us. Obviously, we are going to build this thing around our very talented running back in Daijun Edwards and so, obviously, we are going to make sure he gets his touches and look to adjust from there on how people look to take him away and limit his effectiveness. From there, we will be able to branch out to our wideouts. We have a very talented wideout group and a very deep wideout group. We have a great tight end that allows us to do a lot, in Carter Boatwright.”
At the quarterback position, having a returning starter is huge for Rogers as he enters an unfamiliar program, and as the players transition to Rogers’ offensive schemes, Jaycee Harden’s leadership has been paramount. In 2018, Harden was 171-of-280 passing for 2,498 yards and 22 touchdowns.
North Gwinnett is also returning major contributors, including its starting quarterback J.R. Martin, who was 121-of-191 passing for 1,832 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2018. Martin will have 4-star wideout Josh Downs leading the receiving corps.
In 2018, Downs finished with 50 receptions for 801 yards and nine touchdowns as he averaged 16 yards per catch. His numbers didn’t match the production of his sophomore campaign, but he was a reliable option for Martin, who passed to Downs for 31 percent of his 121 total completions. Over the summer, Downs was invited to play in the 2020 U.S. Army All-American game, a result of his impressive speed and route-running. He is currently committed to the University of North Carolina.
In the backfield, the Bulldogs graduated their most productive rusher in Ty Goodson, but they return senior Devin Crosby, who carried the ball 94 times for 851 yards and 10 touchdowns, second on the team.
North Gwinnett’s defensive anchor will likely be junior Barrett Carter, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound 4-star outside linebacker. Carter, who is rated as the No. 15 OLB in the nation for his class according to 247Sports, has 23 offers heading into 2019 including Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. His talents will be tested right out of the gate against Colquitt’s dynamic back, Edwards, and its sneaky quarterback, Harden.
“The biggest part for us is leadership,” Stewart said of Carter. “He’s a top dog and has to step up as an impact player.”
CORKY KELL PREVIEW: BROOKWOOD VS. MCEACHERN
Brookwood and McEachern are the only programs that have participated in all 28 years of the Corky Kell Classic. In addition to their four all-time meetings in the event, the Broncos and Indians have played each other a total of seven times, dating back to the first matchup in the 1992 (and first ever) Corky Kell Classic. That game resulted in a 21-14 win for McEachern, although Brookwood got its redemption that season in a 19-8 victory in the first round of the state playoffs. Interesting to note is that the teams have only ever played each other in either the Corky Kell or in the first round of the state playoffs. While McEachern leads the all-time series 4-3, there is a noticeable trend in their games. McEachern is undefeated against Brookwood in Corky Kell games, but Brookwood is undefeated against McEachern in state playoff games.
Head coach Philip Jones of the Brookwood Broncos is in his fifth season. Jones is just the fourth head coach in school history. Dave Hunter and Mark Crews (active 1987-2001, 2002-2014, respectively) preceded Jones before he took over at his alma mater. Jones has deep connections to Brookwood High; he captained their 1996 state championship team, worked as an assistant for multiple years under Crews, and his father, Tom, was an assistant coach with the Broncos for 28 years. Since he was promoted to head coach in 2015, Brookwood has gone 30-17, with one region title and a semifinals appearance as well.
Last year’s Broncos were an entirely new set of faces after having lost an abundance of players from 2017. Despite the massive turnover, they finished 7-4, and showed flashes of high potential. The Brookwood offense relied heavily on the run game last year, but this year’s offense could have more balance. Last year, the team completed less than half of its total pass attempts, which led to fewer than 90 passing yards per game. The running game, however, was highly effective and is expected to be a strength of this year’s team. Eli Kohl is the top back after being one of two primary rushers last season. He is led up front by a strong offensive line, which includes 3-star tackle Sean Hill.
Kyle Hockman ran the McEachern Indians football program for over a decade. His 11 seasons included 10 straight playoff appearances, five region titles and an overall record of 103-32. Per the AJC, 58 of Hockman’s former players were on college rosters in 2017, more than any other Georgia school. Earlier this year, however, Hockman took the head coaching job with New Hampstead High School. Arguably the Indians’ best coach in the team’s 60-year history is moving from the perennially elite AAAAAAA school to a recently founded AAAAA program that has seen just one winning season all-time.
As a result, McEachern will debut its new head coach, Franklin Stephens. In 2014, his Ware County Gators decimated Brunswick 48-19. That win was the 100th victory in his career, a milestone he reached in just 109 games, making him the fastest coach in GHSA history to reach the mark. Franklin has put together multiple undefeated regular seasons over the course of his career, and won two state titles at Tucker. No Stephens-led team has ever faced Brookwood, and this will be his first-ever appearance in the Corky Kell Classic.
This year’s roster boasts seven nationally ranked prospects, several of whom have already committed to top programs in the nation. Junior quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson (Florida) and defensive tackle Jamil Burroughs (Georgia) have already chosen their future schools. Burroughs is joined on the defensive line by seniors Jonathen Cross and Mason Hall. The Indians also have junior 4-star wide receiver Dacari Collins.
CORKY KELL PREVIEW: MILL CREEK VS. EAST COWETA
The Mill Creek Hawks, led by first year head coach Josh Lovelady, and the East Coweta Indians, led by third-year head coach John Small, will square off in this year’s finale.
East Coweta’s offensive line will be a strength of this year’s team. As for the passing game, the Indians receivers include seniors Christian Hatzo, Javontae Rosser, Rakiyan Moss and Rakiyan’s sophomore brother, Amaryion. Amaryion, like his brother, plays slot receiver and is described as “lightning in a bottle.” Rakiyan is a three-year starter and their top returning receiver.
A big question that has arisen in the offseason is how the Indians backfield will look after the graduation of All-State running back Gerald Green, who posted an impressive 20 touchdowns and contributed more than 1,500 yards of total offense in the 2018 season.
“[Green] is a special, irreplaceable player,” said Small. “It is going to take a committee [of running backs] to replace him.”
The Indians will rely on senior Jayland Rivers, who missed extensive time to injury last season, junior Jayden Bolton, a transfer from Langston Hughes, and senior Corey Bridges. On the flip side of the ball, linebacker Devin Holmes accounts for the most tackles and tackles for loss out of the returning players. After losing their top two tacklers, they will look for Dylan Spelios and Chase Lewis to step up and support Holmes at the linebacker position. Up front, junior Aughnae Waggoner and senior Ryan Barber will help lead the defensive line. At the hybrid LB/DB position, junior Pierre Robinson and senior Trey Gray will be rotating play. On the other side junior Jamari Alford will line up. The Indians secondary is composed of talented junior Willie Rice, senior Chris Pitt and senior Antino Hogan, who are all returning starters.
In 2018, Mill Creek was a run-dominant team, both offensively and defensively, averaging 226.7 yards per game and holding their opponents to only 77.8 rushing ypg. This run dominance comes at a cost. They only averaged a measly 92.4 passing ypg and allowed their opponents 166.7 passing ypg. Mill Creek prides itself on its rushing offense due to a strong running back tandem tag-teamed with a stout offensive line. Their rushing defense is extremely sound. Going forward, they strive to improve their passing game and special teams. Overall, they averaged a positive point margin scoring 28.7 points per game while holding their opponents to 22.2 ppg.
Since Mill Creek football creation in 2004, ex-head coach Shannon Jarvis built the program from the ground up with a solid foundation. After the departure of Jarvis, his trusted right-hand man, Lovelady, was promoted after serving as an assistant coach with the Hawks for 15 seasons. When asked if anything would be changed with the program as a whole Lovelady responded with, “Nothing broke, so no reason to change … maybe will replace a couple bricks in the wall.” The goal is to start the kids young and coach them up. “Players know the expectation. The team hopes to be in the playoffs every year. [The team] needs to create more turnovers and focus on ball security. We’ve been running drills this offseason to improve upon this. Whether it’s communication, how we hold the ball, et cetera, we are trying to fix everything.”
The run game is a key focus of the Mill Creek Hawks, and in some games seems to be their only offensive production. Spearheaded by a trio of rushers, the carries are shared by senior Chancellor Lee-Parker, junior Josh Battle and senior Parker Wroble.
Defensively, UCLA commit Myles Jackson will anchor the trenches. In 2018, Jackson had 64 tackles with two fumble recoveries. Quick off the snap and hard to hold at bay, it is easy to see why he is such a key factor to Mill Creek’s success. Also on the line is junior Braydon Dudley. All three starting LB’s will be back this season including senior RJ Smith and junior Noah Faircloth.