A 26-year tradition, the 2017 MetroPCS Corky Kell Classic kicks off the new Georgia high school football season on its celebrated and ever-growing stage. For the second-straight year, the Classic features a three-day, nine-game lineup that represents schools from across the state as well as each of the GHSA’s four highest classifications.
On Aug. 17, Mercer University’s Five Star Stadium in Macon will host a Thursday-night doubleheader to open the action for a second consecutive year. The beautiful, 10,200-seat stadium, which opened its gates in 2013, pairs Lee County and Mary Persons for a 5:15 p.m. kickoff before Houston County and Jones County gear up for an 8:15 start. Lee County and Mary Persons will meet on the gridiron for the first time in the schools’ history. Houston County and Jones County split their last four meetings when they would meet annually as Region 2-AAAAA rivals (2012-15), and Thursday’s nightcap will be the first time they have met since the state’s reclassification sent Houston County into 6A.
“There is such a rabid fan base in the Middle Georgia area, and having the games played at Mercer’s first-class facility is a great fit,” said Corky Kell Classic Director Dave Hunter. “We are making it bigger and better than ever just like Corky would’ve wanted it, and the exposure it will give Middle Georgia football is tremendous.”
A GRAND DEBUT
The action returns to Atlanta for Days 2 and 3, offering coaches, players and fans their first look at the renovations that transformed the old Turner Field into the new Georgia State Stadium. The Corky Kell Classic reached a deal with Georgia State in April to replace the Panthers’ and the Classic’s longtime home of the Georgia Dome, which is scheduled to be demolished in November.
“We’re super excited about playing there,” Hunter said. “They’ve extended their hand to us, and it’s a great opportunity to play outdoors in what is going to be a first-class facility.”
The Friday-night doubleheader begins with an intriguing battle between Roswell and South Forsyth at 5:30. South Forsyth made its first-ever appearance in the Corky Kell Classic last year but could not find its offensive rhythm, falling to Hillgrove 27-14. This year, head coach Jeff Arnette believes his team will be better prepared for the big stage and that opening the season against a team like Roswell has sharpened the team’s focus and preparation for the season.
“The offseason has a little extra oomph in it when you are getting ready to open up against a team like Roswell,” Arnette said.
Roswell comes off back-to-back state runner-up finishes and is one of five teams that will be debuting a new head coach (Kell, Buford, North Gwinnett, Walton) at this year’s Corky Kell. Former Roswell coach John Ford is back, but this year he will lead 2016 Class 5A state finalist Buford in its 8:30 kickoff with Class 7A Hillgrove.
The teams that played in the 2016 Corky Kell met on 18 separate occasions later on in the season, including four playoff games. This familiarity will be evident for Saturday’s five-game slate, and it will be the second-straight year that Kell and Tucker open the action at 9 a.m. In the 11:45 slot, Archer and Brookwood will settle a 3-3 all-time series record and meet for the seventh time since 2010. Norcross and Colquitt County have won four of the last five state titles in Georgia’s highest classification and will occupy the middle time slot while meeting in the regular season for the first time.
A narrow 31-28 Mill Creek victory over McEachern in last year’s quarterfinals sets up a much-anticipated rematch at 5:45. In the final game, first-year head coaches Bill Stewart (North Gwinnett) and Daniel Brunner (Walton) make their debuts. The two schools will meet for the first time since 2007, when they opened the season together and later met in the state semifinals.
2017 Corky Kell Schedule (media schedule below)
Aug. 17 at Mercer University Five Star Stadium (On radio in Macon and central Georgia on 1670-AM, on iHeartRadio app and SportsMic app, on TV in Macon on the Justice Network (Comcast 234, Cox 113), on TV in Atlanta on Bounce (Charter 188, Comcast 244), streamed live on the 11 Alive app, NHFS Network and Facebook live on the WXIA Facebook page; Gamecast on CorkyKell.com.
5:15 p.m. Lee County vs. Mary Persons
8:15: Houston County vs. Jones County
Aug. 18 at Georgia State Stadium (formerly Turner Field) On radio in Atlanta on 929 The Game, on TV in Atlanta on WATL (myATL) Channel 36, streamed live on the 11 Alive app, NHFS Network and Facebook live on the WXIA Facebook page; Gamecast on CorkyKell.com.
5:30: South Forsyth vs. Roswell
8:30: Buford vs. Hillgrove
Aug. 19 at Georgia State Stadium (formerly Turner Field) On radio in Atlanta 929 The Game), all 9 a.m. game on TV in Atlanta on WATL (myATL) Channel 36, streamed live on the 11 Alive app, NHFS Network and Facebook live on the WXIA Facebook page; Gamecast on CorkyKell.com. The 9 a.m. game will be replayed on WATL (myATL) Channel 36 on Sunday at 1 p.m.
9:00: Kell vs. Tucker
11:45: Archer vs. Brookwood
2:45: Colquitt County vs. Norcross
5:45: Mill Creek vs. McEachern
8:45: North Gwinnett vs. Walton