Photo by Christine Troyke
The first Corky Kell Classic to feature a full slate of Gwinnett vs. Cobb matchups swung Gwinnett's way.
Peachtree Ridge's thrilling 24-21 win over seventh-ranked McEachern late Saturday night gave Gwinnett victories in three of the four games, with the lone setback coming in the opener when mistake-prone Grayson lost to a ranked Class AAAA team, Kell, 13-10.
After that, the momentum shifted quickly back to Gwinnett with convincing wins by Brookwood (27-10 over Walton) and North Gwinnett (34-14 over Lassiter) against two of Cobb County's traditional powers.
North's win was particularly impressive, despite giving up an early touchdown. The Bulldogs scored the next 34 points to win going away, getting plenty of reserves experience in the Georgia Dome as the game progressed.
"I was very pleased with our effort for the full 48 minutes," North head coach Bob Sphire said. "I thought our ability to emotionally handle the big play by Lassiter early showed some maturity, though I am hopeful that we come out ready to play from the first snap next time. I was pleased that we seemed to get stronger as the game progressed and were starting to hit our stride in the second half. We still have much improvement to make in many areas, and must especially continue to tighten up our play on special teams.
"Now we will see how mentally tough our guys are with their preparation for a very good Bob Jones (Ala.) team coming here this Saturday for our National Challenge. Hopefully, we will bring our lunch pails to work and get prepared in practice properly again."
North used a potent running attack to pound Lassiter, as running backs Ethan Kilgore (117 total yards) and Donnie Miles (123 total yards) were dual threats in the offense.
The two-back plan also worked well for Brookwood, which snapped a four-game losing streak in the Corky Kell Classic that dated back to 2005. Both junior Nick Tompkins and sophomore Jamaal Cole topped the 100-yard rushing mark as the Broncos wore down Walton.
"I've kind of felt like we've had a pretty decent team the last few years," Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. "After the first game, you've got to go back and straighten out some areas. For the last four years we've been doing that, looking at our first loss. I think this is the first step in getting better. We've got some talented folks that will make progress and I think we've got the nucleus of a pretty good football team."
And a win in the opener never hurts.
"It's big (to win in the Dome), especially for the younger guys," Brookwood senior A.J. Sims said. "I guess we had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder to prove to the fans, the parents, everybody out there that saw us lose the past four years. This is just a step up. What we say in our huddles and everything we do is 'Brookwood is back,' and that's what we're trying to do."
Peachtree Ridge also answered some doubts in the opener, rallying with 17 fourth-quarter points to stun a McEachern team loaded with returning talent. The Lions, meanwhile, featured a nearly completely new cast of starters for the opener.
The game turned when Tyler Botts returned a fumble for a score early in the fourth quarter, and it was followed with a nice drive and a short Billy Best TD run. The game still hung in the balance when Justin Watts hit a go-ahead field goal with 2:01 left, but McEachern answered with a desperation drive.
The Indians converted a 47-yard field goal with two seconds left that appeared to force overtime, only to find out that Peachtree Ridge had used a timeout prior to the snap. Forced to re-kick, they missed and the Lions' win -- and a 3-1 record on the day for Gwinnett -- was secure.