Corky Kell 2019 Previews: Rome vs. Marietta

Rome and Marietta squared off for the first time in history at last year’s Corky Kell Classic and competed in one of the most unique and high-scoring contests in event history. Among the most intriguing facets of the game were Marietta quarterback Harrison Bailey going 36-51 for 443 yards and six scores and still coming up short 51-41. Also, the teams combined for 36 total penalties and there were eight fumbles before the final buzzer. Rome jumped out to a 37-13 lead with a Jamious Griffin touchdown run in the final minute of the first half, but Bailey found Taji Johnson on a 32-yard touchdown at the buzzer and then converted the two-point try with a pass to Arik Gilbert to cut it to 37-21. Griffin ran in his third touchdown of the game to put the Wolves up 51-34 in the fourth. Bailey tossed a touchdown pass to Gilbert with 6:48 left to make it a 10-point game (51-41) with more than enough time left. Marietta kept in within striking distance by forcing Rome to punt, but Gilbert fumbled for his second time of the game and the Wolves recovered. After the Blue Devils stopped Rome, Marietta took over with 2:54 left at the Rome 23-yard line. Gilbert, however, fumbled while fighting for extra yards and Rome recovered it with 2:17 to play before running out the rest of the clock. Gilbert finished with 14 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown and Tennessee-signee Ramel Keyton paced Marietta with 191 yards off 14 receptions and four touchdowns. Marietta’s passing game will be just as tough to stop this time around, and Rome is expecting a new cast of playmakers to provide its offense with comparative strength to last year’s squad.


Rome came up short of winning a third-straight Class AAAAA state championship in 2018 after a 45-28 loss to Warner Robins in the semifinals. The result spoiled an undefeated season, and brought their record over the past three years to 41-3. That same level of consistent success is expected this year, and under the leadership of head coach John Reid, the Wolves have been building from the ground up during their recent run with some of the most dominant middle school teams in the state creating a championship caliber pipeline. Expect the Wolves to have exceptional speed and talent, despite the changes in personnel.

“We’ve got a different group of seniors trying to lead by example, and that’s the best way to do it,” Reid told Northwest Georgia News. “[Quarterback] Knox Kadum and some of those brand names are gone, but these guys are trying to pick up from that and from where they left off.”

Marietta’s talented roster features five of the 10 highest rated in the Class of 2020 that will be playing in this year’s Corky Kell Classic and more future college athletes are present throughout the Blue Devils’ lineup. Quarterback Harrison Bailey has started since his freshman year and when the Tennessee-commit is healthy, Marietta’s offense is virtually unstoppable. Senior Arik Gilbert is the No. 1 Athlete in the nation and his enormous 6-foot-5, 253-pound frame makes him a walking mismatch. Recruiting expert Rusty Mansell explained the impact that Gilbert has:

“He is unique, the biggest jumbo athlete I’ve ever covered,” said Mansell. “He is a mismatch on every single play of every game. He forces teams to game plan against him. With the talent that Marietta brings to the table that is scary. Arik is going to demand double and triple teams. That makes everyone around him better because they will get great opportunities because of that. Specifically speaking, he is as big a freak athlete since Robert Nkemdiche. He was an NFL First Round pick and Arik certainly shares that potential. He is a problem, a big one to face against Marietta.”

Gilbert finished this past season with 88 catches for 1,210 yards and 14 touchdowns. Marietta, which was eliminated in the first round this last year will also have star power on its defense. Gilbert is an effective defensive end and Marietta will have four-star BJ Ojulari on the other end to disrupt opposing offenses. As for the secondary, Florida-commit Rashad Torrence II is poised for a massive senior season after the GHSA sidelined him for the entirety of 2018 due to a residency violation of ineligibility.


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