All right football fans, the high school football season is finally here. The season kicks off this Friday. The winter workouts, spring practice, summer passing league, two-a-days, it comes to fruition this week when the season starts.
A few teams got an early start to the season last week. Buford and Berkmar played on Friday and Grayson, Brookwood and Norcross played Saturday in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome.
(Just a heads up, I've got a lot of material in this week's blog, so send your calls directly to voicemail. This is going to take a few minutes to read.)
I really thought Gwinnett was going to go 3-0 in the Corky Kell, but Gwinnett teams ended up 1-2. The big matchup was Grayson vs. Camden County and it lived up to the hype. It was a low scoring game, Grayson had to come back and someone predicted a late Ean Pemberton touchdown would win the game. Grayson might have the best offense and defense in the county. Unfortunately, they also might have the worst special teams in the state. I'll get to that later.
Brookwood and Norcross were down by pretty good deficits in its games. Both teams came back. If Brookwood had another five minutes it might have won. Norcross was just one play away from winning. Both teams will be fine this season. It's still early, they have byes this week and will be among Gwinnett's top teams this year.
Here's some things that stood out to me from the Corky Kell Classic.
McEachern 42, Brookwood 32
Early in the season, the offense typically struggles and the defense keeps you ball games. So it wasn't a good sign for Brookwood when the defense gave up 408 yards of total offense to McEachern. ... Brookwood head coach has to like that his team at least made the score respectable. McEachern led 33-6 early in the third quarter. ... Brookwood fans have been crying for some creativity in the offense. The Broncos broke out the Wildcat offense in the fourth quarter with running back Julian Suber lining up at quarterback. ... Brookwood's senior class is the first to go without a win in the Corky Kell Classic since it started in 1992.
Grayson 14, Camden County 10
There's been a lot of high expectations for Grayson this offseason after last year's phenomenal year. I was a little curious to see how they would handle it in the season opener against the defending state champions. After Saturday's win, I don't think they feel any pressure. There's almost a swagger about them that they know they are good and they know they are going to win. I think Saturday's win over Camden confirmed it for them.
"We just beat one of the state's best. At this time, the state's best," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "They are coming in as the reigning state champions and we were able to beat them. It was a huge statement game for us."
No worries at QB for Conn
When I talked to Grayson head coach Mickey Conn in early August, he was concerned about finding a starting quarterback. He had two guys battling for the job and considered playing both of them through the non-region schedule, if necessary. Patrick Santry won the job before the season opener against Camden County and solidified his job against the defending state champs. After the game, Conn wasn't worried about the QB position.
"Not anymore," Conn said. "I tell you what, my hat is off to Patrick. When we needed a play, he made it happen."
I know what you're thinking. In a primarily run-oriented offense like Grayson's wing-T, the quarterback can't be that big of a deal. Wrong. Santry does more than just hand the ball off. He's the commander of the huddle and makes checks at the line. He also showed a little elusiveness to make plays.
He was able to run the option and get the ball to running back Ean Pemberton as a defender started to tackle him. When he got stuffed at the line on third down, he sneaked out the back for a first down. But most importantly was the play in the fourth quarter with Grayson down 10-7. Camden's nose guard got a good push and Santry's foot got stepped on. As he stumbled he got the ball to Pemberton who went 24 yards to the one and on the next play scored the go-ahead touchdown. Santry had 45 yards rushing on 10 carries and showed he can use his arm when necessary with a 44-yard pass.
The senior has waited patiently to be the Rams' starting quarterback the last three years. His only playing time last season was as the team's holder. He won't put up gaudy passing numbers this year, but Grayson doesn't need a guy like that at quarterback. It needs someone who can take charge and make plays.
"Patrick has done a great job. He's a great leader," senior captain Joseph Champaign said, who plays offense and defense. "If I don't know a play I can go to him and he really takes command of the offense."
Walton 28, Norcross 27
I didn't catch as much of this game as I wanted to as I was working on the Grayson-Camden County story. But a few things that stood out. Throw the ball to Geremy Davis in the end zone and it's a touchdown. At least it was Saturday. He made two great leaping catches for scores. ... Adrian Hubbard is a standout basketball player and is back on the football field. Basketball is probably his first love, but he could probably make a nice college football player if he wanted to. ... The concern of the Norcross offense was supposed to be the skill position players and not an experienced offensive line. It looked the other way on Saturday. If the O-Line can get things right, Norcross is going to score a lot of points.
"Ronald (Rose) did a great job running the offense at times," Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. "We had a couple of bad snaps, but he did a good job throwing and moving around. We've just need to get better with our run game with Delino (DeShields) and Kendrix (Huitt)because those are two special backs. We got to find a way to get them free. Our offensive line has to do a better job. At times we did good and times we didn't."
Special teams a big deal in Dome
Special teams played a big factor in all three games for Gwinnett teams. Brookwood gave up a 71-yard kickoff return and later had 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Allen McCray. Grayson had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown and then fumbled the ensuing kickoff that led to a field goal. The special teams blunder for Brookwood just added to McEachern's already big lead and Grayson was able to rally after spotting Camden 10 points. But special teams hurt Norcross the most. The Blue Devils fumbled the game's opening kickoff and then had a PAT blocked in the overtime. In between a 52-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
"It's the fundamental stuff that gets you beat," Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said.
Football outside of Gwinnett?
If you're like me, you love Gwinnett County football and there's no better football played in the state. Well, believe it or not, there's some pretty good teams in Cobb, Atlanta and South Georgia. In the past I haven't really followed them until the playoffs and frankly there wasn't really one good source to get info on a lot of teams from the state.
That's where Georgia High School Football Daily comes in to play. Todd Holcomb, who also runs Georgia High School Football Historians (another great asset to high school football), has started a daily e-mail newsletter. I read it every morning. It's got a lot of great info about teams around the state besides Gwinnett. (I know, it's hard to believe there's great teams outside of Gwinnett)
Shoot Todd an e-mail if you're interested in getting GHSFD each morning at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of good football outside of Gwinnett. Two of the nations top teams will be in Suwanee on Saturday. North Gwinentt is hosting the National Football Challenge, which will feature No. 1 nationally ranked Byrnes (S.C.) and No. 5 Prattville (Ala.), according to Maxpreps.com. Central Gwinnett will play Byrnes, the two-time defending state champs. The Rebels feature one of the nation's top running backs in Marcus Lattimore who is uncommitted and quarterback Chas Dodd, a Rutgers commitment, and defensive end Corey Miller, who is headed to Florida State. North Gwinnett will take on Prattville, the three-time defending state champions. The Lions feature quarterback Sam Gibson who is headed to LSU and Alabama-bound safety Nick Perry.
Send me your tunes
Not sure if you guys remember from last year, but I did a half marathon last November. I'm doing another one this year, but this time it's in October.
Anyways, I've worn out my running music. If you have any good suggestions for song to run to, send them my way. I'll listen to anything that will keep me going for 13.1 miles.
Super fans have interesting stories
In case you missed it, I did a story for Saturday's paper about super fans in Gwinnett County. Every team has one. That person that's at every practice or every game, is there through the tough years and the winning seasons. I talked to three different people for the story - Nan Burge from Buford, Tom Marley from Shiloh and Walt Butler from Brookwood.
Walt is 76 years old, but I would have guessed he was in his mid 50s from just talking to him last week. He gave me the height and weight of Brookwood's starting offensive line like it was his home phone number. He's been going to Brookwood practices and games for 22 years. He keeps his own depth chart at practice and has the starters for every Brookwood team for the last 22 years.
He's probably not a football expert, but I would say he knows his Broncos. I wasn't able to get everything he said in the story, so I thought I would share it here.
· On Atlanta Falcons kicker Jason Elam, a Brookwood grad.
"Jason Elam, that kicks for the Falcons. We didn't use to have this and where the stadium field is used to be the practice field. I used to stand up there and that Elam ... what impressed me about him was his punting, not his field goal kicking. His punting was just beautiful. Just big, high spirals, 40 and 45 yards. But we've had some real good boys come through here."
· The best player he ever saw in a Brookwood uniform.
"Chris Covington. He's an assistant down at Georgia Southern now. The boy
was outstanding. He returned punts, he returned kickoffs, he was the
best defensive back, the best tackler we had, the best running back, he
was the best all-around football player I believe I've ever seen other
than Terry Harvey at Dacula and Jeff Francoeur at Parkview. They were
· On North Gwinnett's recent success over Brookwood
"North Gwinnett is one of the teams that has a winning record (against Brookwood). We beat North Gwinnett like a drum for years. When Coach (Bob) Sphire came over there he got 'ol (Mikey) Tamburo and (Tyler) Jarry, when those two boys were sophomores and they just whipped us. They whipped us. Those two boys were 95 percent of North Gwinnett's offense and Coach Sphire was a genius at throwing the football and football formations as far as passing. Both of them are gone, thank goodness."
· On UGA All-SEC linebacker Rennie Curran
"He was something special. The first week of practice he was a 10th grader
and I asked one of the coaches who in the world is that boy. They said Rennie Curran. He's something, really something. Rennie Curran, he made 16 tackles against Alabama. He made 13 individual tackles on the line of scrimmage and three on kickoff. If you had five or six Rennie Currans on your football team no body could whip you, they really couldn't."
Alright guys and gals, that's all I got for this week. Hope you enjoyed our high school football preview that was in Sunday's paper. Let me know what you think of the Gwinnett rivalries feature. Also, keep posting your comments below. Got a lot of good feedback last week.
Also, check out the trivia question at the top of the page. (Just click on the logo) We have some great prizes from our sponsors. However, I may have to start making the questions a little tougher. :)
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