There's no question that the marquee matchup for today's Corky Kell Classic is the Grayson vs. Camden County game.
But sandwiched around the state powers is a pair of games featuring two of the top programs in Gwinnett County.
Brookwood will kick off the Classic against McEachern, while Norcross will take on Walton in the nightcap.
It's the second year in a row all three teams will play in the Classic, which is the unofficial start to the high school football season. The rest of the state begins playing games on Friday.
"It's been an honor to be in this game as long as we have," said Brookwood head coach Mark Crews, whose team has played in the Classic every year since it started in 1992. "I think each year our players take it as a challenge to go down there and represent themselves well, so the next group can be invited back."
Brookwood has the most experience of any of Gwinnett's teams in the Classic and in the Georgia Dome. The Broncos are 12-8 in games played at the Dome and 9-6 in the Classic. Brookwood has lost its last three games in the Classic, including a 14-9 defeat to Walton last season.
"There's not going to be any inferior teams in these games," Crews said. "We've come up short a few points the last few years and winning your first game is important. But to get a win in that environment to start the season says something."
You don't have to tell Grayson that. The Rams won their Corky Kell and Georgia Dome debut last season, beating McEachern 31-21. That started a banner year for the Rams that featured an undefeated regular season, a Region 8-AAAAA championship and a berth in the semifinals of the state playoffs. All were firsts for the program, which is celebrating its 10th year of football this season.
Fourth-ranked Grayson will see how it measures up among the state's elite as it plays defending state champion Camden County, also the state's No. 1 team in the preseason. The Wildcats defeated Norcross 21-6 in last year's Classic. That started a 15-0 season that finished with a state title in the Georgia Dome in December.
"Defensively, they fly around, they blitz and come in all directions," Conn said of Camden. "They run a similar offense that we do with the wing-T. They try to get the edge like Lowndes, like us. Then they will pop you in the middle with a lead. Everyone has to be at home. They do a really good job with the wing-T."
It's the second year Norcross will play in the event, and the encore is just as exciting as the debut.
"Anytime you can go in the Dome and represent Norcross, us and the community, it's exciting for the kids," Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. "It's an invitation only, so we hope we can be invited back."
The Blue Devils are coming off an 8-4 season after winning the Region 7-AAAAA title the previous two years. They will play a Walton team that features first year head coach Rocky Hidalgo, who took over for longtime coach Ed Dudley. Hidalgo as been with the program since 1996, so Maloof doesn't expect much change to their scheme.
"Their lines are very good, so we're going to have our work cut out for us," Maloof said. "Anytime you're on the big stage it's an opportunity to showcase your team."
Corky Kell Classic
at Georgia Dome
2:30 p.m. - Brookwood vs. McEachern
5:30 p.m. - Grayson vs. Camden County
8:30 p.m. - Norcross vs. Walton