This is it, this is what we've all been waiting for the last eight or nine months. Football season is finally here. A few of Gwinnett County's teams kicked off last week, but the rest of the county gets in on the action on Friday.
As much fun as the Corky Kell Classic is, there's just something different about being in a high school football stadium for that first game. The fans, the excitement, the heat, it's pretty special.
And isn't this the best time of year? High school football starts this week, college next week and the NFL the following week. Gotta love some football.
Just a couple of quick thoughts from the Corky Kell. You can read more about it below. Brookwood is gonna be a lot better than I thought. North Gwinnett has talented skill position players everywhere. Grayson will be very good, just not right now. Peachtree Ridge grew up a lot with a big win.
Just a heads up. This blog is a little longer than I expected this week. But what can I say, I love high school football and there's a lot of stuff to talk about. Hope you enjoy it!. Hit me up with some feedback by posting a comment below or shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thoughts on the Corky Kell
Bill Ballard sure knows when to call a timeout. McEachern appeared to have tied the game in the final seconds with a field goal over the Peachtree Ridge. However, Ballard pulled out a last-second timeout. It worked and McEachern missed the re-kick and the Lions won.
It's a strategy you see a lot in college and the NFL. I know some people are critical of it. I think it's just good coaching. But what do you think? Is that bad sportsmanship at the high school level?
Sims, Broncos excite
A.J. Sims will be this year's Brad Roby, which means he'll be the most exciting player to watch in the county. Roby, a Peachtree Ridge grad who is now at Ohio State, did it all for the Lions last season. The receiver/defensive back scored a touchdown just about every way possible last year -- literally.
I don't know if Sims will have that distinction, but his ability to weave through traffic on offense reminded me a lot of Roby. He should be fun to watch this season.
Speaking of the Broncos and big plays, you may have noticed players making a hand gesture after a touchdown or a big hit. I asked Sims what all that was about.
"The W means work, so we're putting in work." the Michigan State commitment said. "It's a new swag we've got on the team. Last year we didn't really have it. I guess it's just the team thing, work."
Sims is supposed to be a big part of the Broncos' new air attack. Brookwood went old school on Saturday in the Dome, relying on two 100-yard running backs. That partly had to do with Sims drawing man coverage from a cornerback and a safety on top. That left Brookwood to do what it does best -- run the football. Nick Thompkins and Jamaal Cole each rushed for over 100 yards. It's an offensive production that I think surprised Broncos head coach Mark Crews a little bit.
"I think both did a great job," Crews said. "We need to figure out some ways to get them both on the field at the same time. We know they are both good players, I'm kind of excited about both of them."
Defense will carry Rams until offense gels
It's going to take Grayson another game or two before it gets rolling on offense. The Rams are breaking in almost an entire new backfield. It's a very talented group, but the consistency isn't there -- yet. That was evident by the fumbles in Saturday's 13-10 loss to Kell, which included two lost fumbles.
"We have a new quarterback, new fullback and another new running back, so we're just trying to get used to all the plays," said Grayson running back Devin Gillespie, the only returning starter in the backfield.
With the miscues on offense, Grayson was fortunate to have a strong defense to keep it in the ball game. The Rams were able to score a touchdown in the final minutes, but couldn't convert an onside kick.
Running back Brian Randolph, who is committed to Tennessee, only had 24 yards rushing.
"I thought our defense played extremely well, they didn't give them anything," Grayson coach Mickey Conn said.
Grayson has two weeks before its next game when it plays Alabama power Spain Park in the National Football Challenge at North Gwinnett.
That's two weeks to get the offense clicking, and if they still struggle, a strong defense should keep them in the ball game again.
"It's OK, that's what these first couple of games are for, we've got to find out who needs to be where and get them in the right place," Conn said.
North has fun in blowout win
North Gwinnett never showed any jitters in its Corky Kell debut. Other than an early big-play touchdown, the Bulldogs dominated the entire game on offense and defense.
The Bulldogs saw the emergence of two standout running backs in Ethan Kilgore and Donnie Miles, a solid group of receivers and a hard hitting defense.
"I think it's exciting. I remember in the fourth quarter, it felt so fun," North quarterback C.J. Uzomah said. "We were on the sideline and didn't have to worry about getting our composure, we were just having fun. It's football, that's the way it should be."
Kilgore reminded of me of former North standout Tyler Jarry, who the Bulldogs relied on to reach the state finals in 2007. He can run and catch the ball, but he has some pretty quick feet, like Jarry.
Comets put up a fight
When South Gwinnett coach John Small asked me who I would pick in the South vs. Lowndes game, I told him Lowndes. As much as I hate to pick against a Gwinnett team, I had to be realistic. Gwinnett hasn't had much success against the Vikings, especially in Valdosta.
The Comets almost proved me wrong.
After spotting Lowndes a 13-point lead, South scored 26 points in the fourth quarter and nearly came back to beat them. Despite the loss, I really think that's going to help the Comets in the long run this season.
I also think South's offense might be better than I thought. A reporter down there told me Lowndes' defense is so stingy that if the offense scores 20 points they will win. That almost didn't happen on Friday.
South's 26 points was the most scored on Lowndes since Oct. of 2006. If South can figure out a way to score those points in the first three quarters then they will be just fine.
In case you haven't...
If you're not already, become a fan of the Gwinnett Daily Post's sports page on Facebook. Just click here .
Also, think you know football? See if you can beat The Blitz and the rest of the Daily Post staff in our weekly high school pick 'em. Photo editor Jason Braverman dethroned yours truly last season, but I'm ready to reclaim my title.
Check out our preseason football preview. What did you think of our all-decade team? Do you agree with with Jeff Francoeur and Darius Walker as our defensive and offensive players of the decade?
From my notebook
Here's some stuff that didn't make into my stories over the last few weeks. Hope you enjoy.
I asked first-year Berkmar coach Jonathan Sanks on his timeline for building the program. Here's what the former Towers coach had to say.
"I want to win now. I think we can win now. I think we can be decent. Now I just don't know what's going to happen when we face a little adversity and we play a tough team, I don't know. My timeline, I want to win now for these seniors because they deserve it. There has to be some type of consistency and we're the consistent ones. I don't plan on going anywhere. I want to get this thing going and make it a premier program."
I asked South Gwinnett head coach John Small if his team was the favorite in Region 8-AAAAA this year with region champ Grayson losing so many key starters. Grayson was the only team to beat South during the regular season last year. Here's what he said.
"No, I think until we knock them off or someone else knocks them off then they are the favorite because they have won it the last two years. They have right to be where they are at. Until we can beat them on the grass, we are where we are. We're definitely shooting to win a region championship."
When I talked Duluth defensive back/wide receiver Xavier Walker for the Super Six, I asked him what's the biggest difference about first-year head coach Corey Jarvis.
"First off it starts off as soon as you get to the field house. Once you see Coach Jarvis, you better get quick, get it right. Once you get in there, your mind better be ready to work hard and push and just no lackadaisical mindset. Everyone has to be like that or we'll be the same as last year."
I don't know what's tougher, picking a preseason or postseason all-county team, especially in Gwinnett. Some positions are loaded with talent, such as linebacker, so there's some really good players that didn't even make the list.
What do you think of the team? Did I get it right or did I leave someone off?