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Gwinnett teams hope to make Corky Kell Classic a launching pad

Todd Cline and Will Hammock discuss this year's senior class, including the No. 1 recruit in the country, Grayson's Robert Nkemdiche.


File Photo Grayson linebacker Jay Strickland (38) sacks Kell quarterback Kendall Crute (15) during last season's Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome. Grayson will face McEachern in this year's game.

File Photo Grayson linebacker Jay Strickland (38) sacks Kell quarterback Kendall Crute (15) during last season's Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome. Grayson will face McEachern in this year's game.

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Talkin' Football: Greatest class ever?

Todd Cline and Will Hammock discuss this year's senior class, including the No. 1 recruit in the country, Grayson's Robert Nkemdiche.

Todd Cline and Will Hammock discuss this year's senior class, including the No. 1 recruit in the country, Grayson's Robert Nkemdiche.

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ATLANTA -- While it may not be the official kickoff to Georgia's 2012 high school football season, the Corky Kell Classic continues to serve as a launching point of sorts.

That has been the case throughout the event's first 20 years, but particularly in recent years.

"The last four state champions from the largest classification have all started their (title) seasons in this (event)," Camden County coach Jeff Herron, whose No. 4 state-ranked Wildcats take on Peachtree Ridge in the fourth of five games today at the Georgia Dome, with kickoff set for 5:30 p.m., pointed out during a media luncheon promoting the event Wednesday "Since we've started playing state championship (games) in the Dome, the winner has been in this game. So, I think that's a good omen for all of us. You've got to start your year here to finish it here."

Whether that trend continues with the 21st edition of the event -- which features a Gwinnett County team in four of the day's five games -- remains to be seen.

However, the kind of atmosphere that is created each year certainly resembles that of a state championship game, which is exactly what organizers of the event had in mind.

"Corky was one of the originators of the game," retired Brookwood coach Dave Hunter, a member of the Georgia High School Association's executive committee and another of the founders, said of the event's namesake. "He had a vision. ... He (and other organizers) called me and said, 'We need to play in the Dome and prove to the GHSA you can play the state championship games in the Dome. It took them a long time to come around, but we're there."

And there is every reason to believe each team involved in today's games have a chance to be right back at the Georgia Dome in December.

That includes all of Gwinnett's representatives -- defending Class AAAAA state champion Grayson, 2010 state champion Brookwood and perennial powerhouses North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge.

In addition to some of the top teams in the state, some of the top individual players will be on display at the Dome today, including national top-ranked senior Robert Nkemdiche and several other highly-ranked Grayson seniors, Brookwood Kyrin Priester and Shaun McGee, North Gwinnett's Donnie Miles and Jalen Brooks and Peachtree Ridge's Joe Horn.

This year's event will also feature matchups of programs that have become quite familiar with each other in recent years.

North Gwinnett and Colquitt County, the combatants in the 2:30 p.m. game, met last year in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.

Meanwhile Grayson-McEachern and Peachtree Ridge-Camden County are rematches of former Dome games -- the latter of the 2008 state title game.

But the most familiarity may come during the final game of the day, when Brookwood and Walton square off at 8:30 p.m.

Broncos coach Mark Crews points out that the familiarity goes further than the last meeting with the Raiders, which came in a 27-10 Brookwood in in the 2010 Corky Kell Classic.

"(Walton offensive coordinator) Tripp (Allen's) dad Ray and I have coached together since 1980," Crews said.

"Sometimes I feel like Tripp is a part of our staff. ... So, there's not a whole lot of secrets between us. ... I just hope Tripp remembers to respect his elders."