Fifth Annual Great Atlanta Bash Previews

The fifth annual Great Atlanta Bash returns to Eddie. S Henderson Stadium at Midtown High School with a two-day (Aug. 25-26), four-game lineup that will feature five Atlanta Public School programs, in addition to Douglas County, Miller Grove and Calhoun High School. The action will be televised both days on PeachtreeTV and digitally on the Atlanta News First App and kicks off Friday night with the first-ever meeting between Carver-Atlanta and Calhoun.

“It’s amazing that it’s been five years since Jasper (Jewell) and I got together to put together the Great Atlanta Bash,” said I.J. Rosenberg, the President of Score Atlanta. “And what makes me the happiest is it gives exposure to kids that typically don’t get the exposure. The Bash has become very competitive.”

Saturday returns with a triple-header starting featuring Jackson-Atlanta vs. Miller Grove at 10 a.m. Class 6A Douglas County and Class 5A Mays will meet for a rematch of last year’s 49-42 thrilling win by Douglas County at 12:45 p.m. before APS rivals Douglass and Washington meet at 3:30 p.m. for the 41st time in their history.

“That Douglass vs. Washington game is probably one of the oldest rivalries in our district,” said Atlanta Public Schools Director of Athletics Jasper Jewell. “It’s called the Westside Classic and that should be a glorious matchup to close out the Saturday lineup.”

Washington’s roster boasts rising senior Kameryn Fountain—a 6-foot-6, 240-pound edge rusher and the No. 8 rated prospect in the state, that committed to the USC Trojans this month. Douglass will have the No. 7 rated rising junior in the state taking the field with Ohio State-commit Jontae Gilbert—a 6-foot-1 safety with more than 20 power five offers.

Friday’s premiere matchup between Calhoun and Carver-Atlanta will be an outstanding way to kick off Year 5 of the Bash as Calhoun makes its first appearance in the event and becomes the first program outside of the metro Atlanta area to participate. The Yellow Jackets have made 23-straight playoff appearances.

“Midtown and Henderson Stadium has been there forever,” Rosenberg said. “I think it’s a very traditional place for a game like this. I dont think Calhoun has played a lot of football games in this city of Atlanta. They are an excellent football program. They are a much bigger school than Carver, but at the same time, I think that if there’s a school that could really match up with Calhoun, it’s Carver-Atlanta.”

Carver-Atlanta returns to the Bash and is coming off back-to-back semifinal appearances for the first time in program history. The Panthers’ roster features defensive back Joshua Stone—who has been a multi-year starter that tallied an interception in the state finals as a sophomore starter and has been a major factor in Carver’s success.

Class 5A Jackson and Class 4A Miller Grove will face in Saturday’s opener and are 1-1 all-time in the series with Miller Grove earning a 24-7 win last season. Jackson went on to have a strong 7-4 campaign that included a 35-13 Region 5-5A victory over Mays. Miller Grove defeated Douglass 16-9 after its win over the Jaguars and was extremely competitive in Region 6-4A with victories over Westminster and Southwest DeKalb.

Saturday’s second matchup before the Westside Classic closes out the Bash pins Douglas County and Mays after the two teams combined for 93 points last season. Class 5A Mays achieved its first quarterfinals appearance since 2017 last season and Douglas County will be a major contender in Class 6A this season with senior quarterback Sire Hardaway returning under center after accounting for 410 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s victory.

Friday, Aug. 25

8:00 p.m. Carver (Atlanta) vs Calhoun- 

Carver (Atlanta) made it to the semifinals last year before losing to Sandy Creek and set the tone coming into 2023 with a 28-12 victory against LaGrange in Week 1. Calhoun has reached three-straight quarterfinals and has made 23-straight playoff appearances with eight finals appearances and three state titles in the same span. Calhoun suffered a tough 17-7 loss in their season opener against Blessed Trinity and look to get back on track this week.

Calhoun will make its debut in the Great Atlanta Bash as the first non-Atlanta team in the event.

“We are super excited to come down there and play. We’ve heard about the bash the last couple of years. I think we are the first non-metro Atlanta team to get to play in it,” said head coach Clay Stephenson. “We are looking forward to the opportunity to play in front of people we don’t normally get to. You look at Carver and they are a great playoff team. Year in and year out they are at the top. It doesn’t matter what classification they are in, they have athletes that can compete and the coach does a great job down there.”

Carver (Atlanta) will replace a lot of their playmakers from last year including Zyeek Mender and Deandre Buchanon. The Panthers also graduated star quarterback Bryce Bowens and will have a new voice under center this season.

“The young guys that were on the team that are now seniors we are hoping they can be very productive along with the guys that are sophomores this year that will play some key starting roles. Adam Sheely will be the starting quarterback this year,” said head coach Darius Myles. “We are looking for Taurin Kemp to step up and be one of those guys. He will be playing the slot for us this year. Our leading rusher will be replaced by Amari Russell and he will carry the load for us. He will also get some help from Lataious Stepp. Kind of like a 1-2 punch.”

The Yellow Jackets have a stud running back in Caden Williams (Liberty Commit) who is dynamic in the open field and a physical runner at the point of attack.

“He’s been a three year starter for us. He can do a little bit of everything. We can line him up anywhere. He’s worked really hard at his route running and hands this last year or so,” said Stephenson. “The on-field stuff takes care of itself. He’s a tremendous athlete and works super hard. He’s a 3.9 student in the classroom. It really transfers over to the football field and we are really looking forward to his senior year.”

Emaree Winston is another player to watch in this game and is a heavily recruited prospect that has a commitment decision looming. Winston is great tight end in the Calhoun offense and a matchup nightmare.

“It’s not what you necessarily see on Friday Nights. He earned his way to where he is. I was mentioning him to our Scout team the other day that he is not content where he was last year,” said Stephenson. “We had to fight to get him off of the scout team. He just wants to play football and he enjoys getting out there and competing. On the field, he is a matchup problem for a lot of people.”

On defense, the Panthers have a talented secondary that makes a lot of plays on the ball and will play multiple positions including corner and safety. Joshua Stone and Rodrick Hunter headline the backline of the defense.

“We have Rodrick Hunter who is a preseason All-American that is committed to Akron and Joshua Stone who is on everybody’s radar and has a lot of offers,” said Myles. “He is committed to Arkansas State right now and both of those guys are going to be starting at the safety position. They also will be playing a little bit of cornerback as well.”

Saturday, Aug. 26

10 a.m. Maynard Jackson vs. Miller Grove

Saturday’s triple-header will kickoff with the third all-time meeting between Maynard Jackson and Miller Grove. Last year, the Wolverines scored a 24-7 victory over Jackson and evened up the all-time series 1-1 after previously falling 14-0 in the first-ever meeting. Miller Grove opened its season last weekend with a tough loss to Class 5A Tucker and Jackson is coming off a hard-fought 16-15 win over Arabia Mountain. Jackson’s victory took place right at Eddie Henderson Stadium and the Jaguars were on the same field earlier this month for their scrimmage, where they scored a 34-0 victory over neighboring Midtown.

In the scrimmage, freshman running back and strong safety Jacob Jackson had a phenomenal debut and finished with a rushing touchdown and 57-yard interception return for a touchdown. Jackson was once again recognized as a player of the game in the 16-15 win over Arabia Mountain and was joined by quarterback Rashad Harp, running back Kenyon Gilliam, defensive lineman Cameron Moore and linebacker Messiah Scandrett. Maynard Jackson head coach Eric Williams is entering his 20th season at the helm since first arriving in 2004 and is coming off an outstanding 7-4 finish. The Jaguars’ closed out a school-record 9-3 season in 2017 and earned the program’s first-ever playoff win in a 14-0 victory over Miller Grove.

Last year’s 7-4 finish concluded with a tough 27-20 loss to No. 1 seed Cambridge on the road, but showcased the consistency and competiveness that coach Williams has established during his tenure. In fact, Maynard Jackson found itself in a three-way tie in the region standings at 5-2, but ultimately the No. 2 seed went to Mays and Lithia Springs took the No. 3 seed behind region champion Creekside. The Jaguars will need to replace First-Team All-State defensive back Karleon Bell—a 6-foot-2, 205-pound safety that signed to play at the University of West Georgia. Bell was also the leading rusher last season. Offensively, rising junior Ricky Dorn III is one of the most explosive wide receivers in the Class of 2025 and is an imposing 6-foot-3, 185 pounds.

The highlight of Dorn’s breakout sophomore season was his 95-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Jaguars’ 35-13 win over Mays. Dorn hauled in a 67-yard touchdown in that victory and also hauled in a 76-yard touchdown reception in the season opener against Arabia Mountain. Defensively, Messiah Scandrett returns to lead the linebacker corps and came up huge with two TFL in last year’s 7-6 win over Chapel Hill. Miller Grove is led by senior running back Ta’Jon Corbitt, who rushed for 1,216 yards and nine touchdowns last season. At quarterback Class of 2025 Christian Jamison racked up 1,064 passing yards and 10 touchdowns in eight appearances last season. Additionally, Keshawn Weathers and is back at receiver after hauling in 16 catches for 326 yards and four touchdowns. Defensively, Donovan Burnette is back on the defensive line after registering 37 tackles and two sacks last year as a sophomore starter.

12:45 p.m. Mays vs Douglas County

It’s a rematch of last year’s thriller that included a rain delay and a great finish. Douglas County won 49-41 against Mays in one of the more exciting games in the Great Atlanta Bash in 2022.

Sire Hardaway enters year three as the starter and has a lot of great players to throw the ball to including James Johnson and Aaron Gregory. His head coach raved about his command of the offense and how excited he was to see him perform this season.

“Sire has done everything to improve himself. He is a mental giant. He has a total grasp of our offense and this is his third year being a starting quarterback,” said head coach Johnny White. “We expect big things from him this season. He knows how to get us in the right position like readjusting blocks from the line. He is basically the offensive coordinator on the field for us. If we are against the wall and we have to go, I don’t see Aaron and James Johnson leaving the field. JJ is playing receiver and corner and Aaron is playing receiver and safety.

Mays made a deep playoff run in 2022 before losing to Dutchtown in overtime 40-34 this season. It was the Raiders first quarterfinal finish since 2017. Mays returns stud Quintavious Johnson (Georgia Commit) on the defensive line who has set big goals for this upcoming season.

“I want to lead the way for the young guys. As a team, this year we want to make it to state and not fall short like we did last year,” said Johnson. “On the field, showing the young guys how it is supposed to be done.”

Mays also returns Jaquorian Wiggles at receiver. Wiggles had an all-region year last season and uses his 6 ’4 height to cause problems for defenses. Wiggles has a big catch radius and is a threat on the deep ball and in the red zone.

Defensively, the Tigers will be stout upfront and is led by heavily recruited Jordan Carter manning the defensive line along with several notables at the linebacking corps as well. Their front seven very well could be one of their deepest positions on the team and one of the better fronts in the state of Georgia.

“We have eight guys that we will rotate on the defensive line this year. Jordan Carter has Georgia, Florida, and Alabama offers. Then, we have a junior Laderian Williams who is 6’3 290 and has Georgia as an offer,” said White. “Then we have a senior Korey Jordan who is committed to Georgia Southern. Those are the guys that are starting but we rotate guys in. “In terms of juniors, Michael Hastie has to be one of the best linebackers in the state because he meets all the measurables. He is 6’3 225 and can run.”

Mays played a tough season opener against Douglass and came up short by three points and will look to get back to .500 against Douglas County on Saturday. Douglas County boasts a talented roster filled with playmakers and great defensive pieces that could catapult them as a 6A state title contender.

3:30 p.m. Douglass vs. Booker T. Washington

Douglass and Washington will square off in the Westside Classic to close out this year’s lineup and it is the oldest and most spirited head-to-head rivalries within the Atlanta Public School District. Last year marked the 40th all-time meeting between the Astros and Bulldogs and Douglass came away with a 17-6 victory. This win returned bragging rights to Douglass after a 41-13 Washington victory in 2021 that snapped a streak of five-straight Douglass victories.

Overall, Douglass has dominated the series historically with a 30-9-1 edge, but is 6-3 since 2009 as the teams have been more evenly matched. Both head coaches will be entering their third seasons at the helm and this continuity sets up for an outstanding matchup. Douglass head coach Stanley Pritchett took over in 2021 and has helped lead Douglass from a winless 2020 campaign to a playoff berth this past season in Class 3A. Booker T. Washington head coach Justin Rivers also led the Bulldogs to the playoffs this past season and they eventually fell short to top-seeded Callaway 42-20 in the first round.

As is the case with Douglass and a region with Cedar Grove, Sandy Creek and Carver-Atlanta, Booker T. Washington’s region in Class 2A is also loaded with South Atlanta, North Cobb Christian, Mt. Paran, Therrell, KIPP, B.E.S.T Academy and Walker. Battling that competition last year has benefitted both programs as they take on the 2023 schedule and Douglass has already made waves after opening the season with a 21-18 victory over Mays. As for Washington, the Bulldogs took on Banneker Week 1 and fell short in a 35-22 thriller. Douglass will look to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2019 where the school reached the Class 2A quarterfinals and went 11-2. Sophomore quarterback John Wilson completed 20-of-32 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Astros to last week’s win over Mays and junior Antoine Watkins led the rushing attack with a team-high 14 carries and 64 yards.

Junior Jontae Gilbert made his presence felt on both sides of the football and Keonte Langford tallied six tackles. Gilbert earned player of the game with Darien Harden, who is also able to contribute as a receiver and impact player in the talented Douglass secondary. Washington’s Week 1 game with Banneker saw the Bulldogs fall behind early and allowed Banneker’s offense to remain aggressive. The Trojans finished the game with 177 yards and three touchdowns through the air off an efficient 8-of-9 passing and Washington will have to matchup with Douglass’ two-way stars that can apply pressure in the passing game. Offensively, Washington will feature Jordan Turner at running back and the two-sport star can also make an impact in the secondary. This game will be key for both programs in preparing for playoff berths and bringing a spotlight to the historic Westside Classic rivalry will be a thrilling way to close out this year’s event and the Week 2 action statewide.

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