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Corky Kell Classic

Schedule released for the 33rd annual Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic

The 33rd Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic schedule has been set and will kick off the 2024 GHSA Football Season with a four-day, 11-game lineup starting Wednesday, Aug. 14 and concluding Saturday, Aug. 17 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This year’s lineup will have 11 of its 22 teams making first-ever appearances in the event and will represent the widest range of participants in event history.

“I think if you look at the 11 games and 22 teams playing this year, you will see we worked hard to be as inclusive as possible,” said Corky Kell Executive Director I.J. Rosenberg, also the president of sports marketing company Score Atlanta. “It took three months to put this schedule together. We also have made a move into South Georgia as well as going back to the Northwest part of the state while getting teams from all over the Metro Atlanta area. And our finale in Mercedes-Benz Stadium between Cedar Grove and Douglas County may be one of the best ever in the 33 years of the Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic.”

The opening day will feature a double-header at Kell High School—opening with LaGrange facing off with Douglass-Atlanta—in what will be the first game of the entire 2024 high school season. The Astros and Grangers will also make their first-ever appearance in the Classic and it will be the first meeting between the programs. Wednesday’s nightcap will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. and will stage a showdown between North Atlanta and host Kell. This will be the third all-time meeting between the Warriors and Kell, and first since 2015.

West Forsyth will return as a host site for the fourth-straight year for Thursday’s double-header. In the 4:30 p.m. slot, Dunwoody and South Paulding will face off for the first time and Maurice Allen will make his coaching debut as South Paulding’s sixth all-time head coach. Thursday’s nightcap will pair two-time defending state champion Prince Avenue Christian and host West Forsyth in a first-ever meeting and cross-classification showdown. Dunwoody, South Paulding and Prince Avenue Christian will each be making debuts in the Classic. 

On Friday, Hebron Christian will host a 2 p.m. kickoff between the Lions and Therrell before the action shifts to Rome’s Barron Stadium for Cass versus Callaway at 5 p.m. and Creekside versus Rome in the 8 p.m. slot. Hebron Christian, Therrell and Callaway will all be appearing in the Classic for the first time.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host a star-powered four-game lineup on Saturday that will open with Brookwood and Walton at 10 a.m., followed by Houston County and Alpharetta at 1 p.m. McEachern and North Gwinnett occupy the third slot in a must-see Cobb versus Gwinnett County clash and then the grand finale will stage Cedar Grove against Douglas County. This will be the first-ever meeting between the Saints and Tigers and the first Corky Kell appearance for both teams.

Each of the games will be broadcast live on the Peachtree Sports Network, and streamed digitally on the Atlanta News First app and the National Federation High School Network (NFHS). On Saturday, each of the four games will additionally be broadcast on Peachtree TV, with live radio coverage from 92.9 The Game.

AND SO IT BEGINS….. ON A WEDNESDAY AT KELL

This year, the first day of the season will feature two games with Douglass-Atlanta taking on LaGrange to kick off the event at 4:30 p.m. followed by North Atlanta taking on the hosting Longhorns which will kick off at 7:30 p.m.

Douglass-Atlanta finished 6-5 last season and lost in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs, while LaGrange finished 9-3 and lost in the second round of last year’s Class 4A playoffs. The Grangers are returning six members of the Region 4-4A All-Region Second-Team, including senior running back Jonathan Keys, senior wide receiver Denorayon Reid and junior defensive lineman Noah Outland.

The night game features the return for both North Atlanta and Kell to the Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic. Last year, North Atlanta began its season with a dominant 58-14 win over Johns Creek. This performance kick-started the Warriors’ great season, leading to a 9-2 record and a playoff appearance. Hosting Kell were featured in last year’s games as well where the Longhorns lost 43-24 to Parkview but managed to go on and have a successful 9-2 season. The Longhorns are returning Region 6-5A Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Tyshawn Natt, and Region 6-5A Coach of the Year, Bobby May, as they look to build off their terrific year last season.

LET’S MOVE TO WEST FORSYTH

West Forsyth High School will host two games on Thursday, August 15 during day two of the 2024 Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic, marking the fifth-straight year the Wolverines will host. The Thursday matchups will feature three new teams that are looking to leave their mark on the event.

In the first game of the day, Dunwoody will face off with South Paulding at 4:30 p.m. Dunwoody is coming off its best season since 2009, going 8-2 and making the first round of the playoffs. The Wildcats will be returning a plethora of important players from their explosive 2023 passing attack including quarterback Matt Pearch and wide receiver Danny Boden who both were named Region 4-6A First-Team All-Region.

On the other side of the field, South Paulding looks to be a program on the rise after making the playoffs in three-straight seasons. While the Spartans went 3-8 in 2023, that record is deceiving, as their eight losses came to teams that went a combined 55-15 in the regular season. South Paulding returns 11 players that made All-Region honorable mentions or better last season, adding continuity that most emerging teams could never dream of. First-Team All-Region selections junior offensive lineman Jayce Sanker and senior defensive back Draden Fullbright are notable players to watch.

Game two will see one of the top teams in Class A Division I, Prince Avenue Christian, face off with perennial 7A playoff team West Forsyth at 7:30 p.m. PAC is coming off its second-straight Class A Division I state title and its fourth-straight championship appearance. Prince Avenue will have to replace record-breaking and current Georgia Tech quarterback Aaron Philo, however, the Wolverines do return First-Team All-Region selections sophomore wide receiver Hudson Hill and junior wide receiver CJ Dockery, making the task of replacing Philo much easier.

West Forsyth is coming off another successful season in 2023, going 8-3 and making the playoffs for the twelfth time in the last 14 seasons. West Forsyth will be returning four First-Team All-Region players including starting quarterback Max Walraven and starting running back Foster Orris, creating a dangerous and experienced backfield that will be hard to defend.

GOT ON A BUS FOR FOOTBALL, DESTINATION ROME ….. AND HEBRON

Friday’s action will begin at Hebron Christian Academy at 2 p.m. as the Lions take on Therrell in Dacula, with both teams making their debut in the Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic. Hebron Christian went 6-5 this past season and have now made the playoffs in eight-consecutive seasons in its 17-year history as a program. Sophomore running back Devon Caldwell will be one to watch for the Lions after he rushed for 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2023. Another key player offensively will be Gerrit Kemp, who had 514 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season. Defensively, Max Steve was a key factor and led Hebron Christian in tackles with 96 as a sophomore. Therrell had one of its best seasons since 1996, winning nine games and making it to the first round of the playoffs. The Panthers also had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1995-1996. A key returning player offensively will be Quentorion McClendon, who had 518 receiving yards and four touchdowns and was selected to the Region 6-2A All-Region team as a junior. The team returns athlete Ahmad “Boogey” Bridges, who had a great junior season for the Panthers and was named Region 6-2A Player of the Year. 

Meeting at Rome’s historic Barron Stadium, Cass and Callaway will play at 5 p.m. in the first-ever matchup between the teams, with Callaway making its debut in the Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic. The Cavaliers saw a lot of success last season, going 9-3 and making it to the quarterfinals for the second-consecutive season. Callaway will be replacing a significant part of its team after losing great players on both sides of the ball. Quarterback DeShaun Coleman won Offensive Player of the Year for Region 5-2A and Cam Tucker won Defensive Player of the Year for Region 5-2A, both of whom have graduated. Cass is coming off a historic season upsetting the No. 1 seed Kell Longhorns in the first round and tied its best finish in program history making it to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Quarterback Brodie McWhorter is one of the top quarterbacks in the state for the Class of 2026 and is coming off a stellar season. In the upset against Kell, McWhorter won Offensive Player of the Game and Gatorade MVP. A key prospect to watch on offense alongside McWhorter is Izak Koep who started to make an impact in the final games of the regular season for the Colonels. He will be a key weapon in the passing game for Cass after graduating Devin Henderson (Liberty) and Sacovie White (Georgia). 

Rome will host Creekside for the nightcap of the double-header at Barron Stadium. It will be the second time the teams have played in three years. In the previous matchup, it was a defensive affair that Rome won 16-6. The Wolves went 11-2 and made it to the Class 6A quarterfinals for the second consecutive season in 2023 before losing to eventual state champion Thomas County Central. Rome will lose quarterback Reece Fountain (East Tennessee State) who was a three-year starter and considered one of the better quarterbacks in the state. It will be interesting to see who the signal-caller will be for the Wolves in 2024. A key returning starter for Rome will be Jaedon Harmon who is a 4-star prospect, according to 247Sports. Harmon was a key piece to the Rome defense last year and arguably the team’s best player which includes 3-star Joe Wilkinson (Clemson). Creekside went 13-2 and was a state runner-up this past season. The Seminoles now have three-consecutive 10-win seasons under head coach Maurice Dixon. Creekside will lose its two leading rushers from last season in Roderick McCrary and Travis Terrell (Jackson State). Key returning starters for the Seminoles are wide receivers Eric Paul Jr. and Dylan Vickerson. Vickerson is a 3-star prospect and one of the top 65 players in the state, according to 247Sports. Defensively, Major Levell will be a player to watch for Creekside in 2024. Levell received major playing time as a freshman and was the third-leading tackler with 81 tackles. 

SATURDAY’S SHOWDOWN AT THE BENZ

The final day of the Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a four-game slate with historic storylines. Opening the day are traditional Corky stalwarts Brookwood taking on Class 7A runner-up Walton at 10 a.m. The Raiders are coming off a sour 31-21 loss to Milton in the 7A title game and will have to weather the loss of Wake Forest-bound quarterback Jeremy Hecklinski. Walton does however return seven players that were All-Region honorable mentions or better last season for Region 5-7A including offensive linemen Patrick Burris and Nick Thorner. Brookwood is coming off a 4-6 season while going 1-4 through the stout Region 4-7A and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015. However, the down season allowed superstar Class of 2027 running back Brayden Tyson plenty of playing time. As the young power five recruit will be one of the top players in the state over the next three years.

In the second game of the day, middle Georgia will be represented when Houston County faces Alpharetta at 1 p.m. The Bears finished 9-3 last season but lost in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. Houston County will be led by its star quarterback Antwann Hill Jr. who enters his senior season as one of the top quarterbacks in the country, being named an honorable mention on the AJC All-State team. Alpharetta enters the game after a first-round exit last season from the 6A playoffs in head coach Jason Kervin’s fourth year at the helm. Alpharetta is led by a group of high-end recruits, most notably quarterback D.J. Bordeaux and UGA-commit tight end Ethan Barbour.

At 4 p.m., the traditional Corky Kell teams of 7A powers McEachern and North Gwinnett will face off for the eighth time. McEachern upended the Bulldogs in the first-ever meeting in 2011 but has lost in each of the six matchups since. McEachern will be led by junior running back Jayreon Campbell who was named Region 3-7A First-Team All-Region as a sophomore last season. While they face an experienced North Gwinnett team who returns seven players that were named Region 7-7A First-Team All-Region, most notably defensive linemen Cole Funderburk and Braxton Kyle who dominated opposing offensive lines last season.

The nightcap matchup features Class 3A state champion Cedar Grove taking on Class 6A semifinalist Douglas County in each team’s Corky Kell debut. The Saints have won five championships since 2016. Douglas County finished last season 13-1, won its first region title since 2002 and is wanting its first state title since 1964. The Saints will have to break in a new signal caller as star quarterback EJ Colson unexpectedly graduated a year early. However, his replacement will be given one of the top rosters in the state led by three AJC All-State selections, most notably UGA-commit running back Bo Walker. Douglas County looks to be just as talented as the Tigers return two players who were named AJC All-State in disruptive defensive lineman Jordan Carter and hard-hitting defensive back James Johnson.

2024 Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic Schedule

Wednesday, Aug. 14

At Kell High School

LaGrange vs. Douglass-Atlanta, 4:30 p.m.

Kell vs. North Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 15

At West Forsyth High School

Dunwoody vs. South Paulding, 4:30 p.m.

West Forsyth vs. Prince Avenue Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 16

At Hebron Christian High School

Hebron Christian vs. Therrell, 2 p.m.

At Barron Stadium

Cass vs. Callaway, 5 p.m.

Rome vs. Creekside, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 17

At Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Brookwood vs. Walton, 10 a.m.

Houston County vs. Alpharetta, 1 p.m.

McEachern vs. North Gwinnett, 4 p.m.

Cedar Grove vs. Douglas County, 7 p.m.

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