Past four AAAAA champs played in Kell
The 20th anniversary edition of the Corky Kell Classic kicks off Saturday at the Georgia Dome with five games.
The event began as a doubleheader in 1992. It added a game this year to make it five. Chattahoochee coach Terry Crowder says buses will leave his school for the Georgia Dome at 6:30 a.m. Saturday for the 9 a.m. start. One wonders if it's not the earliest regular-season game in the history of the high school football. In this state, at least.
Here are five facts about the 2012 event that are worth noting:
*A team that played in the Kell has gone on to win Class AAAAA each of the past four seasons - 2011 Grayson, 2010 Brookwood and 2009 and 2008 Camden County. The Kell Classic has seen an eventual state champion in 10 of its 20 seasons. Many were not teams you would expect, including Roswell getting its first title in 36 years in 2006. Brookwood in 1996 and Camden County in 2009 won state titles despite losing their Kell games.
*The Kell is typically good for at least one really good upset. Few thought Lassiter, coming off a 5-6 season, would beat defending AAAAA champion Brookwood last season or reach the state semifinals later in the year. It turns out that we were watching three eventual semifinal teams - Grayson, Lassiter and Walton. In 2010, Kell shocked Grayson. In 2009, Grayson bounced defending champion Camden County.
*There are two south Georgia teams in the Kell for the first time since 1999, when Thomas County Central and Colquitt made it. No. 2 Colquitt County and No. 3 Camden County are nationally ranked. Non-metro Atlanta teams are 14-7 against metro teams in the Kell Classic, which begs the question: Why do they not like playing the state championship game in the Dome again?
*The top three players in GHSF Daily's Player of the Year Watch are playing Saturday in the Dome. They are Grayson DE Robert Nkemdiche, Walton RB Tyren Jones and Camden County HB/DB J.J. Green.
*The top four teams in the AAAAAA rankings are playing in the Kell. They are Grayson, Colquitt County, Camden County and Walton. That's a first. Kell, the No. 4 team in AAAAA, also is playing.
Piedmont, Westwood put GISA win streaks on line
Georgia high school football history will take place tonight in Camilla between two state champions of which many Georgia high school football fans have never heard.
Westwood School, the home team, is the reigning champion of Class A in the Georgia Independent School Association, sometimes called GISA (pronounced gee-sa). The team averaged 49.9 points per game last season, the second-most in state history (GHSA or GISA) behind Camden County's 50.9 in 2011.
Piedmont Academy, from Monticello, is the reigning champion of Class AA.
Each team is riding a 26-game winning streak. This is believed to be the first time in state history that teams with winning streaks that long have played each other. The longest winning streak in GISA history is 29 games, held by Westwood and Savannah Christian.
"I do feel like this game should get statewide attention since both schools and football programs have had such unprecedented success the past two seasons," said Westwood's coach, Ross Worsham, who grew up in Camilla and played for Mitchell-Baker's 1983 GHSA state championship team. "You have four state championships and 52 straight victories between the two schools on the line. I know both communities view this as a huge opening game, and I feel like there will be a ton of interest."
Piedmont Academy coach Rhett Farmer added a key note: "Both head coaches were willing to put their streaks in jeopardy."
The GISA has 46 member schools that play football. They are private schools with enrollment that typically would be middle to low in the GHSA's Class A.
But college coaches know they're there. In 2011, there were 69 college football players who came from associations other than the GHSA, primarily GISA.
"GISA football is very competitive considering the small size of the member schools when you compare the small number of student-athletes as compared to what most public schools have to draw from," said Piedmont's Farmer, whose school has about 45 males, 31 who play football. "This league is loaded with talent when you look at it from a per-capita standpoint."
No scrimmage for Grayson
Only about a dozen Georgia teams are choosing not to play scrimmage games this preseason. That becomes news when one of those is Grayson, a reigning state champion that is the No. 1-ranked team in Class AAAAAA.
Grayson coach Mickey Conn gave three reasons for that. One is the risk of injury. His starting quarterback has been injured in scrimmage games the past two seasons.
Another reason is managing the emotions of his players.
"Too many people put too much emphasis in the scrimmage and turn it into a game instead of a scrimmage, including our players," Conn said. "They get so amped up for the scrimmage, they have a letdown for the opening game."
Grayson lost its 2010 opener to Kell 13-10 and defeated Kell 7-0 in 2011. Both games were in the Corky Kell Classic.
Conn's third reason is his desire to control what his team works on rather than let a game dictate that.
"We've done more intrasquad scrimmages to condition the team both physically and mentally," Conn said. "It gave me the opportunity to work on specific things that I might not in a regular scrimmage because I'm trying to win the game. We felt like we'd get more out of a controlled scrimmage and keep that energy bottled up for the first game."
2,000-yard rusher eligible at Coosa
Janier Ferguson, who rushed for 2,063 yards at Pepperell last season, was cleared to play this week at Coosa, where he transferred. Ferguson has begun practicing with the team. Coosa, 3-7 last season, opens Aug. 31 at Gordon Central.
ACPOY picks likely to leave Georgia
North Oconee head coach Terry Tuley asked this week how many of the all-classification players of the year (the Daily List on Tuesday) stayed in Georgia to play college football. The answer is nine of the 33, but only one since 2002. That would be ECI's Washaun Ealey, who played at Georgia but is now at Jacksonville State. The most recent ACPOY who went to an in-state school and finished his eligibility there is Reggie Brown of Carrollton (1998). He was an all-SEC receiver at Georgia. That does not include Hutson Mason, the Lassiter quarterback who now is a backup at Georgia. Mason was not an AJC all-class player of the year but was the Associated Press ACPOY in 2009. Also, of those 33, 10 signed with Georgia, one with Georgia Tech (Joe Burns).
In the Navy
In our Tuesday feature "Quarterbacks set to shine in 2012," we reported that 11 Georgia quarterbacks have committed to FBS (formerly Division I-A) schools.
The next day, that number became 12 as Chattahoochee's Travis Marshall gave his verbal commitment to Navy, which is a popular destination for Georgia signal-callers.
Navy's current starting quarterback is Trey Miller, formerly of Whitefield Academy. Navy also has made an offer to Hillgrove quarterback Troy Thompson this year.
The most successful Navy quarterback since Roger Staubach was Ricky Dobbs of Douglas County. Dobbs turned down an offer to play receiver at Georgia. After a redshirt year at Naval Academy Prep in Rhode Island, he became Navy's starter and broke the single-season NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 27.
Before Dobbs, Lamar Owens of Benedictine ('02) in Savannah was a two-year starter at Navy and led the team to back-to-back bowl victories for the first time in school history.
Thanks to Trey Alverson for some of that history. And sorry that you won't be able to get the Village People out of your head today.
Minding our Pease and QBs
Our list of quarterbacks from the past decade who signed with FBS schools didn't include players listed in recruiting services at other positions. Angelo Pease, the quarterback for Cairo's state championship team in 2008, signed with Kansas State. He went to junior college for two years but found his way to K-State, where he plays running back. Thanks to reader J.L. King for pointing that out.
Willis is another FBS-bound QB in Georgia
Another reader points out that Marist quarterback Myles Willis has committed to Boston College. Our feature story spotlighted only those Georgia quarterbacks being recruited primarily at quarterback. Others include Terry Googer of Woodward Academy (offers from Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and others) and Donovahn Jones of Dutchtown (offers from Arkansas, Missouri and others).
Two more guys to add to the career passing totals
The Georgia High School Football Historians Association is the unofficial keeper of state records in Georgia, but the GHSFHA's information is reliant on coaches and fans to keep those lists up to date. We ran a list of the all-time passing leaders in Georgia (career yards). Readers pointed out two omissions. Cain Campbell of North Paulding threw for 7,151 yards, and Taylor Heinicke of Collins Hills passed for 6,478. Both quarterbacks played from 2008 to 2010. By the way, Heinicke threw 25 touchdown passes as a freshman at Old Dominion last year despite not starting until mid-season.
Seven FBS players on Grayson's defense
Grayson could have seven FBS signees on its defense this season. What's the record? We don't know. But Grayson's seven will line up something like this - DE Robert Nkemdiche (Clemson), DE Jack Banda (Arizona), DT Zach Barnes (Tennessee), OLB Wayne Gallman (Clemson), DB David Kamara (Clemson), DB Ryan Carter (Ole Miss offer, and others) and DB Kasey Gaines (offer from Penn State). "And that doesn't include one of our best players, Jordan Germany," said Grayson coach Mickey Conn, who expresses amazement that Germany doesn't have similar offers. "He's unbelievable." Germany is the outside linebacker opposite Gallman and also plays running back.
Ridgeland and football coach Mark Mariakis are being accused of violating First Amendment rights of players by spreading his Christian faith, the Chattanooga Times-Free Press is reporting. The Freedom From Religion Foundation was successful in stopping prayers at a Tennessee school. ... There's a nice feature on Hap Hines, the former Georgia kicker, in the Newnan Times-Herald. Hines is a Newnan assistant coach who is returning to his alma mater, Marietta, for Newnan's opening game Friday. ... Bainbridge's game with East Gadsden on Friday is one to watch. Bainbridge was 8-3 last season and return 30 seniors, while East Gadsden was 10-3 in Florida. East Gadsden's head coach is former FSU and NFL defensive back Corey Fuller.