High Hopes For Four Teams At Corky Kell + Dave Hunter 7-on-7 Tournament

North Oconee, Parkview, Norcross, and Roswell will enter the 2024 campaign looking to build off strong showings last season. Each team will use the upcoming Corky Kell + Dave Hunter 7-on-7 in various ways to help prepare for the season.

All four teams qualified for the state playoffs but fell short of their goal, a state championship. They will compete in the Corky Kell + Dave Hunter 7-on-7 tournament and hope to build momentum, practice through personnel changes or just have fun.

Norcross head coach Keith Maloof is entering his 26th season at the school and has had an illustrious tenure with two state championships. He’s also coached several players who have become household names from their NFL careers.

Most notably, 2017 offensive rookie of the year and All-pro running back Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints. As a reward for his dedication to the Norcross community, both on and off the field, Maloof was nominated by the Atlanta Falcons for the NFL’s Don Shula High School Coach of the Year Award in 2023.

“It’s a combination of a great community, a great faculty and staff.”  Maloof said of the program he’s dedicated his life to.

In typical fashion, Maloof downplays the importance of winning and instead wants his players to use the tournament as an opportunity to build chemistry with one another.

“I just want to see them compete and get better and help each other out and not get caught up so much in winning one game or two,” he said. “Because there’s going to be things that happen that are not in a normal game, or things that happen and you only got 20 minutes that you can’t really overcome. You just have to adjust and move on.”

Maloof knows that one of the keys to success through the season is how the players communicate with one another. He believes that the tournament can help his team build the necessary chemistry and familiarity with one another to be successful this season.

“It just shows it puts you more on an island one on one to see how you can cover man to man coverage,” Maloof said. “On defense, you see if you can communicate with your linebackers about where their zone areas are and who they (the opposing team’s offense) are covering. Offense is more chemistry with the quarterback and receivers, receivers, running good routes, quarterbacks putting the ball where the receiver has an opportunity, just things that you can get out of it that are going to help you develop into a better offense and defense, once we put the pads on.”

Also looking to build off a recent run of success is North Oconee High School head coach Tyler Aurandt, who is entering his 8th season as the school’s head coach. Aurandt took over a program that had gone winless in 2016.

After winning just one game in 2017, Aurandt has led the Titans to the playoffs every year since, including three consecutive region titles.

Aurandt, however, has larger goals in mind for his Titans, with hopes of winning the program’s first ever state championship.  He is confident that the culture he and his staff have built over the last several years has put the team in a position that allows them to win on Fridays, year in and year out.

The Titans will look to fill the void left behind by the 26 seniors who were on the roster last season both on and off the field, many of whom started on the team for at least three years and helped contribute to the foundation of success built by Aurandt and his staff.

Amongst those graduating seniors includes 2023 First Team All-State and 8-4A Regional Defensive Player of the Year, defensive back Brooks Thompson, whom Aurandt describes as “one of the best players to ever come through our program.”

Aurandt is hoping to receive significant contributions from rising senior Landon Roldan who will play on both sides of the ball and rising junior and GHSA First-team All-state LB Khamari Brooks.  Aurandt expressed excitement for Brooks’ return and what he brings defensively.
“It’s super important to have a kid like that. One that everybody will kind of rally around because he’s got credibility. He’s been in the fire; he’s played a lot of snaps and he’s been a dominant player at his position,” Aurandt stated.

At the tournament, Aurandt wants to see how his players respond in nonideal circumstances.

“I think the best way to find things out is to put them in a competitive environment and see how they’re going to respond. See how they handle adversity, see, see how they handle success, and how they handle failure.”

Parkview’s Joe Sturdivant is entering his second year as head coach at his alma mater. Sturdivant started as a defensive back on the 2001-2003 Panthers teams that went 45-0 and won three consecutive state titles. Sturdivant is looking to bring the state title back to Parkview for the first time since.

“I believe it’s an attitude and the mindset that takes you to a championship and it’s all those steps in between,” he said. “I’m just extremely lucky that this time around, I get to be wearing the orange and blue and that Panther pole on my chest and on my hat, that’s always been printed on my heart.”

Unlike Maloof and Aurandt, Sturdivant is not going to see the upcoming tournament for more than what it is meant to be. He sees it as an opportunity for his players and coaches to develop familiarity with one another and the systems which they will run throughout the season.

Simply, it’s just about team-building fun.

“We want to be in the Corky Kell and we want to represent Parkview but in the end 7-on-7 is not a determining factor of how good you’re going to be,” he said. “So we want to use it as a chance to execute and we’re going to run seven on seven plays. We’re going to run our offense and we’re going to work on the passing game. Let’s go have fun.”

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