Corky Kell 2019 Previews: Walton vs. Norcross

The Walton Raiders and the Norcross Blue Devils kick off their 2019 season against each other on Aug. 24 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a rematch of the Corky Kell in 2016, where Norcross won in a dominating 46-14 outing. Last season, both teams won their Corky Kell matchups: Norcross over Mays 42-26 and Walton over Mill Creek 48-27.

Walton head coach Daniel Brunner and the Raiders are looking to win another region championship and are seeking their first state championship for the football program.

Last year, the offense was spearheaded by All-State receivers Dominick Blaylock and Kendall Alford. With these 1,000-plus-yard receivers gone, the Raiders will rely on senior Teagan Bierria to step up, along with freshman Pearce Spurlin, a special talent with a 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame who has the ability to go up and grab the ball. Another young player who will get action Friday nights is sophomore Rawson MacNeill, a wideout with good edge blocking who can be explosive on screens and slants if he can break into the open field.

Quarterback Austin Kirksey is now at Nevada, and sophomore Zak Rozsman will take over at the helm of the offense. Last season, Walton was able to find the freshman Rozsman plenty of snaps to gain some experience before headlining his first season as a starter. He threw 75 attempts, completing 50 of them for 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. In the backfield, the Raiders will line up with returning backs KD Stokes, Julian Bumper and Cade Thompson.

The Norcross Blue Devils have made the playoffs 13 of the last 14 seasons. Under head coach Keith Maloof’s tenure, the Blue Devils have gone an impressive 180-81 with five region titles, two state championships (back-to-back in 2012-2013) with 50 All-State players. In addition, there have been eight players from Norcross go to the NFL under Maloof.

Looking forward to 2019, the Norcross schedule starts off with some very tough out-of-conference matchups against Walton, Mill Creek, North Gwinnett and Archer, yet over the course of the season strength of schedule begins to ease up within region play.

Offensively, Norcross will line up with multiple sets, including two-back and spread sets. The offensive line is much improved. The program started three sophomores on the offensive line last year who have come into their own. Abel Aguirre, Quinton Bradford, and Pharoah Glenn are some of the big anchors who will hold down the trenches and will be expected to open holes for the two explosive running backs Kaleb Jackson and Michael Porter. These guys will be the two-headed monster in the backfield that will see a bulk of the carries, however, Jahni Clarke will provide workload relief and see some snaps. In comparison to the other linemen, Anthony Nelson is not the biggest guy, but does a great job holding his own against bigger defenders.

Defensively, a big focal point is game experience. Not a lot of guys on the defense have a ton of Friday night game experience but are perceived as extremely talented players. The defensive line is progressively coming together, with players such as Tyren Long. Jalen Garner at the linebacker position is said to be “a diamond in the rough.” Garner will minimize the loss of all-state linebacker Christian Wright. Junior free safety Josh Graham will be joined by Jaytwon Peoples, Roland Jackson and D’Ron Jumpp in the secondary.

As for special teams, Norcross will have kicker/punter Kellen Grave de Peralta. Last season, Grave de Peralta went 8-of-9 on field goals and 30-of-32 on PAT’s.

“These guys are a tight-knit group,“ said defensive line coach Corey Richardson. “All the boys have strong pride for the football program. … This is the key for us, we must develop the leadership and come together as a family and we will be in a position we want to be by the end of the year.” as a unit, we will be a very good team. We will be tough to beat. It won’t be easy, but if we work together it will come.”


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