Gwinnett's top junior football players will have a new all-star game option later this year.
Organizers announced this week that the inaugural Georgia Elite Junior Classic will be Dec. 28 at McEachern High School with a 1 p.m. kickoff. The game will feature 70 of the top high school juniors in the state and will be broadcast on TV by Comcast Sports South. Longtime Brookwood football coach and athletic director Dave Hunter is one of the event's organizers, along with Score Atlanta's I.J. Rosenberg and McEachern's Jim Dorsey.
The RisingSeniors.com Georgia Junior Bowl has been the primary all-state showcase for junior players in past seasons. It will be Dec. 31 this year at Grady High School.
"We're not trying to compete with (the RisingSeniors.com game)," Hunter said. "We just think there is plenty of talent to go around. ... There are 150 to 200 top recruits in Georgia every year, so there will be plenty of talent to go around."
Walton's Rocky Hidalgo and Berrien's Ed Pilcher have been named as the first Elite Junior Classic head coaches. Their coaching staffs will include North Gwinnett's Bob Sphire, Brookwood's Mark Crews, Mays' Corey Jarvis (previously at Duluth), Lowndes' Christian Hunnicutt (previously at Buford) and St. Pius' Paul Standard, a Gwinnett resident.
The showcase's release stresses that players will be chosen based not only on athletic performance, but also must meet a certain academic requirement and demonstrate integrity in the classroom and community.
"We want kids that coaches feel are good models of their program," Hunter said.
Teams will host practices at McEachern and they will be housed at the Marietta Conference Center. Practices will be Dec. 26 and 27, with a combine planned for Dec. 27 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The players also will participate in a community service event and will be honored at a banquet.
Hunter said McEachern is the event's home for now.
"In utopia, you would like to play it at the Georgia Dome," Hunter said. "But we can't afford it now and the dates don't work out with the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Falcons."
More information on the new event is available at www.elitejuniorclassic.com.