The Corky Kell Classic has kicked off the Georgia high school football season every year since 1992, and is gearing up to stage a captivating four-day, 11-game lineup to celebrate its 31st anniversary this year. The ever-growing spotlight surrounding Georgia’s proud gridiron tradition has flourished alongside the Corky Kell Classic, which has routinely raised the bar to ensure that each new season kicks off with with the biggest and most competitive lineup of matchups. This year, eight of the 22 teams participating in the classic will be making their Corky debuts and the lineup will also introduce the first-ever private school matchup in the event’s history with Fellowship Christian and Mt. Pisgah squaring off. Tune into PeachtreeTV to watch live and access the full Corky Kell schedule below.
NORTH FORSYTH vs. NORTH ATLANTA [5:30 p.m.]
North Forsyth head coach Robert Craft enters his seventh season with the Raiders and is coming off back-to-back 6-4 campaigns and a 7-5 record in 2019 that earned the program’s first postseason victory since 2005. Last year, North Forsyth was incredibly competitive in Region 6-7A, but narrowly missed out on a postseason berth with a 3-3 region record. A 20-17 loss to region champion Denmark in their region opener and defeats to Lambert and South Forsyth were balanced out with impressive victories over West Forsyth, Gainesville and Forsyth Central. Now, Craft and his team will compete in a brand new Region 8 in Class 6A and he is looking forward to joining this new landscape.
“With a new region and new coaching staffs that we haven’t gone against, we, as a coaching staff, have probably done more offseason studying and preparing for a lot of these new teams that we’ve done [in the past],” Craft told Forsyth County News. “… Our schedule is unique in that we will still get to play some of our in-country rivals but also get to play some new teams from around the state.”
North Forsyth will make its Corky Kell debut against North Atlanta in the first-ever meeting between the programs. After that, the Raiders will observe a bye week before a series of top tier non-region contests with Forsyth Central, West Forsyth and Creekview. The region slate picks up the following Friday night and the Raiders will have just one team from its previous region (Gainesville).
“It’s a lot of new,” said Craft. “Of the teams in the region, only one of them is a team we’ve played in the last six years since I’ve been the head coach. It’s going to be new to all the players on our roster, and it’s going to be new to our coaching staff. That brings a lot of excitement. We’re just excited to be able to take our brand of high school football at North Forsyth and expose that to other counties, a new region and a new classification with 6A.”
Defensive lineman Braden O’Shields is entering his junior season and is joined by Chandler Deblois as a Class of 2024 prospect that will see an increased role this season. Additionally, Collin Miller is back at linebacker after leading the team with 87 touchdowns and 17 tackles for loss this season. Miller also led the team with seven sacks and Chris Herock will be back after tallying 6.5 sacks last year. Offensively, quarterback West Roberts, running back Lake Heffington and receiver Logan Curry will be key pieces this year and will look to build off last season’s 22.4 ppg average.
North Atlanta is also fresh off a 6-4 record that saw the program narrowly miss the playoffs and head coach Jamie Aull has accumulated a 9-9 overall record in his first two years at the school. The Warriors faced off with one of the toughest regions in the state that included Westlake, Hughes, Tucker, Morrow and Lovejoy and were able to score impressive wins over Morrow (52-14) and Lovejoy (31-25), however, they lost the three-way tie-breaker for the No. 4 seed. This year will confront North Atlanta with a brand new six-team Region 4-6A that includes St. Pius, Riverwood, Marist, South Cobb and Dunwoody.
Coach Aull has plenty of returning talent to lead North Atlanta back into the playoffs, including quarterback Lorenza Lennon—who tossed 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Lennon also paced the team with his 482 rushing yards and four touchdowns and Class of 2024 running back Kaiden Hambrick ran for an additional 177 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. All 18 of North Atlanta’s rushing touchdowns in 2021 were scored by underclassmen and the same is true with the 12 receiving touchdowns this past season. Deshawn Merritt led the receivers with 25 catches and teammate Randolph Smith finished with 16 catches and a team-high four touchdowns.
On the defensive side, senior Hunter Davis and junior Connor Hughes led the way last year with 51 and 46 tackles, respectively and double-digit tackles for loss. Additionally, junior Xaden Benson is back after hauling in a team-high three interceptions last season.
“I haven’t made any changes to the way we run the program since taking leadership,” said Aull. “Coach O’Sullivan and I created a solid foundation before he left in 2019, so I’m sticking to what we built and want to continue the growth in the players, the interest in the program and maintain a winner mindset.”
ARCHER vs. WEST FORSYTH [8:30 p.m.]
West Forsyth is 2-0 all-time in the Corky Kell Classic under head coach Dave Svehla and has reached the state playoffs in 11 of the last 12 seasons. The Wolverines are a relatively new program that has only been around since 2007, but they have routinely been represented on statewide polls and proven to be a top tier team week in and week out.
This past season, West Forsyth scored a 38-8 win over Class 3A state finalists Carver Atlanta in the classic. The Wolverines’ brutal non-region slate continued with Cartersville, Walton and Mill Creek before entering region play. Cartersville came away with a 38-31 victory, but the Wolverines responded two weeks later with a 51-35 win over No. 4 ranked Walton. West Forsyth trailed Walton 22-7 before willing its way back to the victory and a large part of that was the breakout performance of Class of 2023 running back Peyton Streko.
“It didn’t start off very well,” said Svehla. “About eight seconds into the game, we were down 8-0. But it was fun. A couple of things we did well that we hadn’t done in previous games was get ourselves in short-yardage situations. We were ahead of the chains a good share of the night. Our offensive line did an outstanding job, and of course Peyton Streko had an outstanding game. The guys up front were a big part of that, but Peyton did a great job of being patient and putting his foot in the ground and going forward.”
Streko followed the Wolverines’ offensive line and racked up 267 yards off 22 carries to go with a career-high six touchdowns. Additionally, quarterback Keegan Stover tossed 282 passing yards and a touchdown in the victory. Stover and Streko will both be back for their senior seasons and will play integral roles in West Forsyth’s success.
Stover finished the season with 2,409 passing yards to go with 25 touchdowns and three interceptions. Class of 2024 wide receiver Ryder Stewart had a breakout sophomore season with 28 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns and will increase his role this season as a top target. West Forsyth also returns the bulk of its production on the defensive side of the ball with its three leading tacklers back for their senior campaigns: (Raleigh Herbert, Riley Mckee and William Orris). Herbert had a team-high 108 tackles, McKee finished with 71 and Orris racked up 59 tackles.
Archer has a new head coach for the first time since its inaugural season in 2009. Former head coach Andy Dyer departed following the 2021 season and left with the Tigers’ fourth region title and eighth time in the past nine seasons that the program advanced past the first round of the state playoffs. Now, Dante Williams is taking the reins and he comes in fresh off his state championship with Collins Hill where he served as offensive coordinator. Williams is a Gwinnett-native that played quarterback at Duluth High School and Samford before getting into coaching.
“I knew this was my calling,” Williams told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “I put my toes in the ground and kind of grinded it out and learned from a bunch of great people. It’s definitely a dream come true. … I wouldn’t leave Collins Hill for just any place. There were a lot of people who were interested and reached out to me, but like I told my principal here and my AD, they are such incredible people and leaders and they provide us with what we need to be successful as we showcased. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen overnight. Archer principal Ken Johnson and AD Tim Watkins, they’re parallel with (principal) Kerensa (Wing) and (AD) Scarlett (Grantham) over here. That’s what I’m accustomed to, what I’m used to and really what I’ll only accept as I embark on this journey.”
The Tigers have plenty of returning talent for coach Williams and his staff to implement into the offense with junior quarterback William Wallace and senior running back Chadwick Alexander II. As for the defensive side of the ball, Archer has been one of the top producers of pass rushers and defensive backs over the last decade and will have playmakers like Sammuel Rwibuka on the defensive line and Nathan Morales Jr. in the secondary. Rwibuka recorded a team-high 10 tackles for loss last season and Morales had three interceptions to go with his 34 tackles.
2022 Corky Kell Classic Schedule
August 17 at Johns Creek
5:30 p.m. Kell vs. Cherokee Bluff
8:30 p.m. Johns Creek vs. Parkview
August 18 at West Forsyth
5:30 p.m. North Atlanta vs. North Forsyth
8:30 p.m. West Forsyth vs. Archer
August 19 at Rome
2:30 p.m. Fellowship Christian vs. Mt. Pisgah
5:30 p.m. Cass vs. Kennesaw Mountain
8:30 p.m. Rome vs. Creekside
August 20 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
10 a.m. McEachern vs. North Gwinnett
1 p.m. Brookwood vs. Norcross
4 p.m. Walton vs. Mill Creek
7 p.m. Marietta vs. Grayson