30th year is here; day one Corky Kell Classic spring previews

This year’s Corky Kell Classic will kick-off on August 18, with the first two games of the eleven-game event being played at West Forsyth High School. The Cherokee Warriors will face-off against the Mays Raiders to begin the event, and following will be the matchup between the West Forsyth Wolverines and the Carver-Atlanta Panthers. We checked in with all four teams following spring football to get a feel for where they were at, and how they are approaching the 2021 high school football season.


Cherokee started last season 6-0 and ultimately went 8-3 overall and 3-2 in the region, getting to the playoffs for the third year in a row. Coach Josh Shaw led this team back to success after losing 21 starters in 2016 and going 0-10 in 2017. After breaking Cartersville’s 62-game regular season win streak, Cherokee is looking to make some more magic happen behind their strong senior leadership.

The biggest losses for Warriors are on the offensive line and wide receivers on the offensive side and the linebackers on defense. Cherokee had three starting offensive lineman graduate this past year, 3-star Arkansas State commit Nason Simmons, Huntington College commit Steve Hardison, and Derrick Battle. At wide receiver, the Warriors lost their second and third options in Brady Bocherer and Hayden Shockley. Turning over to the defense, linebacker and Co-Defensive Player of the year Braesen Parker graduated along with OLB Will Ross, who was fourth on the team in tackles. Luckily for Coach Shaw, this team is stacked with senior leaders and guys who have been getting playing time since their freshman and sophomore years.

On offense, AJ Swann and Keith Adams Jr showed their toughness and dedication, playing through injuries and stepping up for the Warriors. AJ Swann, Cherokee’s star senior quarterback, is committed to the University of Maryland and is looking to have his best season of his high school career. Stud running back Keith Adams Jr., son of Clemson great Keith Adams, will be back to full strength at the start of the season. The 5’9, 200 pound Adams has rushed for almost 3,000 yards in his three years and ran for 1,350 yards and 14 touchdowns last season with a torn meniscus. He has gotten reps on both sides of the ball during spring practices this year, allowing rising junior Zi Johnson to get a lot of reps at running back. Coach Shaw said that both Adams and Johnson will be used a lot in 2021, with both backs being in at the same time with one out in the slot.

Adarrius Harshaw is the main guy to look out for at wide receiver for Cherokee. Not only was the leading receiver as a junior, but he ran a 10.78 100m race and broke the school record and county record with a 24.3 in long jump. Rising freshman Gracen Sexton, rising senior Adam Fullen, and Sequoyah transfer Aiden Moore should see a surplus of action at wide receiver as well. First team All-Region defensive end Toby Thompson has even gotten reps at fullback this spring, a guy who is athletic enough to play tight end as well. If this offensive line holds its own, this will be an almost impossible offense to stop.

Defensively, this unit has a lot of talent and experience returning. With Toby Thompson and the defensive back trio of Chase Goddard, Tyler Goddard and Keegan Baker, this defense has multiple seniors that will lead this team. Coach Shaw always has a senior leadership council, but this year he had to expand it because there are so many guys that he and his players see as leaders. The Cherokee Warriors are playing in a very tough region with the likes of Cartersville, Milton, and Roswell, and are seeking to win their first region championship since 2002.



After an underwhelming season, Mays High School will try to bounce back in 2021. The Raiders went 3-7 overall and 1-5 in the region in their first season after reclassifying from 6A to 4A. It was coach Niketa Battle’s first losing season at Mays. Battle became the head coach in 2016 and won region championships in 2016, 2018, and 2019. The Raiders lost 17 of 19 starters from 2019 to 2020, so they had an extremely young team last year, with most players returning with the exception of top wide receiver Devin Miller, top defensive back Braxton McPherson, leading rusher Danny Conley III, and Region 6-AAAA Defensive player of the year linebacker Amiri Johnson.

Mays started off spring practices at a high tempo, but had to cancel a lot of spring due to COVID. According to Coach Battle, the goal for this team is to win a region championship. Last season was a down season, but he thinks that this team will be back to where they were in 6A. Two quarterbacks got playing time last season, rising junior Saulamon Evans and rising sophomore Quintavius Johnson.

Niketa Battle said, “I think this year going through the summer we will have a clear indication of who will be the starter going into the season, whatever kid that we get the best response from the team will get the nod.”

Expect a competitive quarterback competition during this off-season and to see both quarterbacks play at some point next season. Mays is losing a few skill players on offense, including their top two receivers and their top running back. Rising junior Triston Morgan will have to step up for the Raiders at running back and lightning fast corner Travis Terrell Jr got a few carries last season so he may get more of a workload on offense in 2021. At receiver, rising senior Almonte Duncan and rising junior Nagari Tophia return as the only wide receivers to score touchdowns last season, so expect their role to be expanded. On defense, rising senior safety Jalen Johnson, Almonte Duncan, and rising junior defensive end Bryan Glass should be the main guys the team should look out for.

Mays will attempt to bounce back from a down season with a lot of complications along the way. Now that the COVID season is behind us, this team should put up a much better fight in 2021. Adding another year of experience is key for this young team and they should show many improvements down the road.


West Forsyth

West Forsyth got to the quarterfinals in 2020 with a 9-4 record overall and 5-1 record in the region for their second region championship in school history. Dave Svehla coached his first season at West Forsyth and led the Wolverines to their best season in school history, even though he was put in a very difficult position with no spring practices and a limited summer. Even with a brand new offensive coaching staff and limited time to learn the players and the offense, the Wolverines finished the season on a 7-game win streak until they lost to the state champion Grayson in the quarterfinals.

West Forsyth lost a few key players from last season, but will have a solid core coming back. The Wolverines will be without three impactful defensive backs, two of which were captains in 2020, Drew Southern, Kobe Haynes, and Dalton Tjong. They are also losing linebacker Hudson Posey, who had the most sacks and hurries on the team. On offense, top wide receiver T.J. Jennings, top running back Navy commit Daba Fofana, and top offensive lineman UGA commit Dylan Fairchild graduated.

Luckily for coach Svehla, the Wolverines have a very good group coming back on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Keegan Stover transferred from Dawson County before last season and played his first varsity season for West Forsyth in 2020. With a year of experience under his belt and a much more organized off-season, the rising junior should be even better in 2021, after throwing for 1,444 yards with 19 touchdowns and only four interceptions. His top target, the No. 2 ranked 2022 tight end in the nation Oscar Delp is coming back for his senior season. Delp dominated last season, recording 43 receptions, 730 yards, and nine touchdowns in nine games. The duo has clear chemistry, working together three to four days a week in the summer before last season certainly helped them both.

At running back, rising sophomore Ryder Stewart and rising junior William Orris both got over 65 carries each last season, even with seniors Daba Fofana and Kobe Haynes combining for 184 carries. The one-two punch of Stewart and Orris should develop into one of the best running back combos in the region this season and next. Three of five starting offensive lineman are returning, a line that received high praise from Oscar Delp last season. West Forsyth’s defense should be anchored by a stacked linebacker unit. Rising senior Jay Helstone and rising juniors Raleigh Herbert and Riley McKee will be a nightmare for rushing offenses. Herbert was second on the team in tackles last season, the most by a non-senior. The biggest gap to fill is at defensive back, so Greyson Brockman and Bryce Allen will have to step up.

After succeeding in Dave Svehla’s first season, expect the Wolverines to come out firing next season as the team to beat in Region 6-7A.



After losing the first three non-region games in 2020, Carver finished the season with a 6-5 record and 4-1 record in region play. Coach Darren Myles’ team made it to the quarterfinals of the 3A playoffs, extending Carver’s postseason appearance streak to nine straight years. Myles has been with Carver since 2005, where he has won two region championships with only two losing seasons.

Carver has most of their core returning, but a few fairly important seniors graduated. Carver will be without First-Team All Region offensive lineman Yonas Temesgen, and two Second-Team All Region offensive players, running back Bobby Sims Jr. and tight end Terico Faulks. Two First-Team All Region defensive backs are graduating, Tobias Fletcher and Bobby Sims and safety Demetrius Hinton. Even with their departure, Carver will have plenty of talent coming back, the main advantage to having a young team last season.

The quarterback situation will be very interesting for the Panthers, as they played two quarterbacks last season. Rising senior Kiontae Strozier played strictly wide receiver freshman year, wide receiver and quarterback during his sophomore year, and strictly quarterback as a junior. His competition is Lorenza Lennon, a rising junior that was the starter at the beginning of the season last year but got less playing time as the season went on. Kiontae Strozier will likely get the nod because he finished last year as the starter, but expect to see both QB’s get snaps. At running back, rising senior Jarveous Brown is coming back after an incredible season, racking up 1,019 yards and eight touchdowns with 145.6 yards per game on 8.9 yards per carry in seven games last season. If he can play in every game this year, he definitely has a chance to rush for over 1,500 yards. All of Carver’s top three receivers are returning, led by rising seniors Tobias Robinson and Quintavious Davis.

Besides the loss of their top three defensive backs, the Panthers have a bunch of promising players returning on defense. All First-Team All Region players last year, rising junior defensive lineman Aquantis Clemmons, rising seniors defensive lineman Terrel Lightfoot, linebacker Dialo Mosley, and linebacker Devonte Amasiani will play key roles on this defensive unit. Mosley and Amasiani led the team in tackles by a very large margin, with 127 and 100 total tackles, respectively. Aquantis Clemmons had an impressive 25 tackles for loss as a sophomore, which led the team. The defensive line and linebacker core will be elite for coach Myles, he just needs his young defensive backs to step up.

Carver has advanced to the playoffs each of the last nine years, but has fallen in the first round in seven of those seasons. Coach Darren Myles will try to have continued success to get back to the quarterfinals and beyond in the 2021 season.



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