Peachtree Ridge’s Jordan Ellis (1) crosses the goal line for a touchdown past Walton’s defender Ben Hood (2) during the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Saturday. Peachtree Ridge defeated Walton 23-17. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
ATLANTA — Peachtree Ridge was embarrassed in last year’s Corky Kell Classic, losing 42-0 to Camden County.
The Lions had a much better showing on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
Peachtree Ridge’s Jordan Ellis scored the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter as the Lions held on for a 23-17 win over Walton in the 22nd Corky Kell Classic.
“Last year I felt like I came in after a 10-round knockout,” said Peachtree Ridge head coach Mark Fleetwood, who was 0-2 in his previous Corky Kell games. “The neat thing about this when you change styles, you change offensive coordinators, you have a new kicker, a new quarterback and the kids jumped in and they believe what the coaches are doing, some dividends paid off. That’s what is exciting about it.”
After last season’s tough loss in the Corky Kell, Peachtree Ridge went 4-6 and missed the playoffs. The Lions were the only team in this year’s kickoff classic that didn’t reach the postseason a year ago.
They showed they put the 2012 season behind them on the first play of the 2013 season.
Myron Burton opened the game with a 73-yard kickoff return and the Lions had to settle for a 29-yard Evan Pantels field goal. Burton also had a 39-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
Walton scored on its next two possessions to take the lead. Maurice Gibson caught a 14-yard pass from Price Wilson to go up 7-3. Wilson added his second TD pass with Jordan McCray catching a 34-yard TD pass to take a 14-3 lead. Wilson was 13 of 27 for 179 yards and an interception.
“I don’t think we were really settled in on either side,” Fleetwood said. “We were a little excited. I said if we stick to what we’re doing, no panic, stay with what we’re doing.”
Peachtree Ridge’s Burton caught a 63-yard TD pass from Chance Thrasher to cut Walton’s lead 14-10. Thrasher was 10 of 25 for 223 yards with an interception.
The Lions threw an incomplete lateral pass and Walton’s Maurice Gibson recovered it. That set up Christian Lucas’ 32-yard field goal for a 17-10 Walton lead. Raiders running back K.K Brooks rushed for 117 yards on 24 carries.
Pantels kicked a 32-yard field goal with 1:26 left in the half. The senior added his third field goal from 53 yards after two Walton timeouts as the half expired. Pantels’ school-record field goal made it 17-16 at halftime.
“I’m extremely proud of (Pantels),” Fleetwood said. “That was a play that changed the game.”
After Pantels’ record field goal, he missed two in the second half from 21 and 46 yards.
Thrasher was intercepted on the Lions’ first possession of the second half by Taquar Stewart and returned it to the 30. The Lions’ defense held Walton to a 48-yard field goal attempt that was no good. Peachtree Ridge used running back Ellis to regain the lead. The Virginia commitment ripped off a 43-yard run. After Tyler Campbell caught a 17-yard pass, Ellis scored on a six-yard run to put the Lions ahead 23-17 with 3:39 left in the third quarter.
Ellis finished with 109 yards rushing on 26 carries and caught three passes for 35 yards. Campbell was the team’s leading receiver with four catches for 52 yards.
“We just felt like we didn’t establish (the run) enough in the first half, but we were trying to,” Fleetwood said. “We felt like if we could start pounding it and wearing them down a little bit that would we have a chance.”
That was the last time Ellis scored, but his presence was felt in the fourth quarter. With 6:04 left in the game, Peachtree Ridge grinded out a 52-yard drive thanks to Ellis to run out the clock and seal the win.
“It was real big,” Ellis said of the drive. “We teach that in practice, being real physical. We control the tempo and that’s what we did with that last drive.”