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High school football kicks off with big weekend

Todd Cline and Will Hammock talk about the showcase weekend to get the football season kicked off -- with a pair of ESPN games and the Corky Kell Classic.


In this file photo, Brookwood fans cheer on their football team against at the Corky Kell Classic in the Georgia Dome.

In this file photo, Brookwood fans cheer on their football team against at the Corky Kell Classic in the Georgia Dome.

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TALKIN' FOOTBALL: Showcase kickoff weekend

Todd Cline and Will Hammock talk about the showcase weekend to get the football season kicked off -- with a pair of ESPN games and the Corky Kell Classic.

Todd Cline and Will Hammock talk about the showcase weekend to get the football season kicked off -- with a pair of ESPN games and the Corky Kell Classic.

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Reader poll

What football game are you most looking forward to this weekend?

  • Peachtree Ridge-Walton 4%
  • Brookwood-McEachern 9%
  • Grayson-Colquitt County 11%
  • North Gwinnett-Camden County 27%
  • Norcross-Booker T. Washington (Fla.) 18%
  • South Gwinnett-Lincoln (Fla.) 30%

453 total votes.

It’s game week. Finally.

After eight months of no high school football games and months of spring practice, summer workouts, passing league tournaments and pre-season practice, it’s finally here. The high school football season officially kicks off this Saturday with the annual Corky Kell Classic. The showcase event features five high school football games, including four Gwinnett County powers. If that wasn’t enough, a doubleheader on ESPN will be played at Norcross.

“I’m glad it’s here and I think the kids are, too. It’s exciting,” Peachtree Ridge head coach Mark Fleetwood said.

The six Gwinnett games are some of the most highly anticipated matchups in the early part of the season.

Peachtree Ridge plays Walton, Grayson takes on South Georgia power Colquitt County, followed by North vs. Camden County and Brookwood against McEachern. Five of the eight teams are ranked in the top 10 in the state and seven reached the playoffs a year ago.

“I think everyone in the country knows of the caliber of Georgia football,” North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphire said. “It’s an expression of what kind of teams there are across the state.”

A little closer to home, Norcross will host a doubleheader with two Florida powers. South Gwinnett will play Tallahassee’s Lincoln, while Norcross will battle Miami’s Booker T. Washington.

“We got a taste of it a couple of weeks by playing Colquitt in a scrimmage,” Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said. “Last week was kind of a let down because we didn’t have anything to look forward to. Now we’re ready to get back at it.”

Norcross is the defending Class AAAAAA state champion and is ranked No. 3 in the nation. It will be tested by Washington, which was the Class AAAA state champion a year ago. The Miami school has four Division I commitments. Defensive end Chad Thomas and cornerback Nigel Bethel are going to Miami, receiver Lamar Parker is headed to West Virginia and athlete Treon Harris is committed to Florida State.

Norcross has no shortage of talent with the state’s No. 1 player in defensive end Lorenzo Carter. Running back Myles Autry, linebacker Kevin Mouhon and running back Josh Boyd are also highly recruited. South Gwinnett, which lost to Norcross in the state playoffs last year, will play a Lincoln program that has been one of Florida’s most successful over the last 15 years. The Tallahassee school was the Class 7A runner-up last year and won the state championship in 2010. Lincoln cornerback Kendall Randolph is one of the state’s top recruited players with an offer from Alabama. Linebacker Jeff Williams is committed to Louisville.

South Gwinnett center Dennis Edwards is committed to Western Kentucky and receiver Coray Keel has Division I offers.

Peachtree Ridge has the most to prove out of the six local teams. The Lions are the only school in the group that didn’t make the playoffs last year. Even worse they were embarrassed 42-0 by Camden County in last year’s Corky Kell.

“Yeah, we do (have something to prove),” Fleetwood said. “Everybody has a bad taste in their mouth about that. We want to prove we are better than that.”

The Lions will face a Walton squad that lost to Parkview in double overtime in the state playoffs last year and were the 2011 state runner-up to Grayson. Walton has one of the state’s top college prospects in cornerback D.J. Smith. Peachtree Ridge has two players committed to Division I schools in offensive lineman Orlando Brown (Tennessee) and running back Jordan Ellis (Virginia), while defensive back Nick Glass and receiver Myron Burton are highly recruited.

Grayson is the defending Region 8 champion and will play Colquitt County in a rematch of the 2011 state semifinals that the Rams won 35-31. The Packers lost to Brookwood in the 2010 state championship game, Grayson in the 2011 semis and Norcross in last year’s semifinals. The Packers feature defensive tackle Jamiyus Pittman, an Ole Miss commitment.

North Gwinnett will take on Camden County in a battle of two of the state’s winningest programs over the last seven years. Camden, which won the 2008 and 2009 state titles, has won 81 games during that span, while North has 78 victories. The Wildcats are led by cornerback Kalvaraz Bessent and safety Chris Williams, who are Alabama commitments. North Gwinnett has its fair share of college prospects with defensive end Dante Sawyer, the No. 4-ranked player in the state, while running back C.J. Leggett and receiver Nate Brown are also highly recruited.

The nightcap of the Corky Kell puts the event's two longest participants against each other. Brookwood, which is 11-10 all-time in the Corky Kell, will face McEachern, which is 9-12. McEachern defensive end Henry Famurewa is committed to Louisville. Brookwood running back Josh Brown is rated one of the state’s top recruits.

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