Score Atlanta staff, interns pick Corky Kell Classic winners

The 30th annual Corky Kell Classic gets underway Wednesday, August 18 at West Forsyth High School.

The 22-team field includes a defending Class 6A champion in the Buford Wolves, the first out-of-state team in Corky Kell’s history in Hoover (AL.), a Class 7A state runner-up in Collins Hill along with Class of 2022 No. 2 player in the nation Travis Hunter and familiar Corky participants, Brookwood and McEachern.

Score Atlanta tasked some of its writers with predicting the outcome of all 11 matchups along with the highest and lowest scoring games. A schedule will proceed the experts’ picks.

Here are those predictions:

Cherokee vs. Mays

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: Cherokee. Class 7A Cherokee has won its last three season openers and Mays has been defeated in its past five season openers. With senior quarterback AJ Swann back to lead Cherokee, I expect the Warriors to have another successful opener. Swann, the Region 5-AAAAAAA Co-Region Offensive Player of the Year, has gone 2-0 in season openers as a starter and has accounted for 435 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception in those victories.

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: Cherokee. The Warriors 8-3 finish last season began with a 38-12 victory over Carver-Atlanta in the Corky Kell and with its returning talent, Cherokee looks to be the favorite. Quarterback AJ Swann — a Maryland-commit — and wideout Ardarrius Harshaw — a Utah-commit –  are both three-star recruits and will be formidable. Swann passed for 23 touchdowns and 2,505 yards last season and Harshaw made 53 receptions for 872 yards and seven touchdowns. Add in running back Keith Adams Jr. — who rushed for 1,350 yards and 14 touchdowns last season — and the Warrior offense will be hard to stop.

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: Cherokee. AJ Swann and Ardarrius Harshaw will be too much for the Raiders to handle, backed by an experienced defensive unit. AJ’s swan song in the Corky Kell should end in the Warriors’ favor.

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: Cherokee. Based on school mascots alone, a Warrior would never lose to a Raider.

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: Cherokee. AJ Swann was an Elite 11 finalist and Mays loses the reigning Region 6-4A defensive player of the year Amiri Johnson.

West Forsyth vs. Carver-Atlanta

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: West Forsyth. It’s worth pointing out that Carver-Atlanta will play one of the toughest schedules of any Class 3A program this upcoming season and West Forsyth will be a huge test out of the gates. The Panthers have tremendous size defensively and are a physical team that can compete with anyone. However, I think West Forsyth will be able to take advantage of playing on its home turf and the Wolverines will have tons of returning talent from last year’s run to the Elite 8.

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: West Forsyth. Last season, in head coach Dave Svehla’s first year leading the Wolverines, the team finished 9-4, the program’s best record since it went 10-2 in 2002. Experience from last year’s quarterfinal run will lift the Wolverines past Carver. Returning is quarterback Keegan Stover, who passed for 1,444 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, and 6-foot-5 four-star tight end Oscar Delp, who had 43 receptions for 730 yards and nine touchdowns last year.

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: West Forsyth. The Stover to Delp connection will prove fatal for Carver, but should be a competitive game fueled by Carver’s defensive front.

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: West Forsyth. The Wolverines return nearly everyone including the No. 2 tight end in the nation Oscar Delp while Carver loses All-Region talent.

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: West Forsyth. Dave Svehla’s defense allowed 18.46 points on average last season and returns at least one player named to the Region First-Team Defense on the front seven and secondary this year. It also helps to have a weapon like Oscar Delp on offense.

Westlake vs. Archer

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: Westlake. The Lions return quarterback RJ Johnson and all five starters on the offensive line from last year. I expect them to be one of the highest-scoring offenses in the state this year.

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: Westlake. Quarterback RJ Johnson’s experience is key in this decision. Last season, he passed for 3,197 yards and 26 touchdowns. Also returning is the team’s leading-rusher — Zina Mulbah — who rushed for 791 yards and 13 touchdowns during his junior year.

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: Westlake. RJ must stand for Randy Johnson because this guy has a cannon. In the Lions vs Tigers matchup, the Lions will come out on top, something that will never be said in Detroit.

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: Westlake. The Lions have won seven consecutive region titles and were a win away from playing in the 6A State Championship last year while the Tigers were bounced in the second round. In related news, the tiger has yet to overthrow the lion as the king of the jungle.

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: Westlake. This one was tough with the talent returning to both squads but I like the Lions with Reginald Johnson back under center and their elite coaching staff.

Dacula vs. Tucker

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: Dacula. Kyle Efford will likely be the best player on the field when these teams play and he is physically gifted to be a complete gamechanger.

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: Dacula. Why? Kyle Efford. The three-star Georgia Tech commit is 6-foot-2.5 and 225-pounds of two-way fury. Staring at linebacker and running back, Efford causes trouble both ways.

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: Dacula. Casey Vogt will get off to a hot start in his inaugural season with the Falcons behind three-star Kyle Efford, who is looking to run all over the Tigers defense.

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: Dacula. The Falcons not only have Georgia Tech-commit Kyle Efford and tight end Daniel Poole but also a solid linebacking corps. Tucker lost some key contributors on the offensive line and will likely need a season to gel with new head coach James Thomson.

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: Dacula. Both teams are welcoming in new head coaches, so I’ll go with the team that has the best player on the field in running back Kyle Efford, the three-star Georgia Tech commit who also commands the defense at linebacker.

Gainesville vs. Johns Creek

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: Johns Creek. Johns Creek has a ton of size on the offensive line in addition to a deep stable of skill guys. I expect the Gladiators to look sharp out of the gates.

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: Johns Creek. Both debuting in the Corky Kell, I like the Gladiators in this one. Three-star athlete Terian Williams II and three-star offensive tackle Tyler Gibson could tip the advantage to Johns Creek.

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: Johns Creek. The addition of Kyle Durham makes this Gladiator team even more dangerous than before. Despite Gainesville having the best mascot in the Corky Kell, Johns Creek looks to take down the Red Elephants in Week 1.

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: Johns Creek. The Gladiators have a stronger collection of players in offensive tackle Tyler Gibson, lineman Alex Cunningham and Terian Williams II, who can start at both safety and wide receiver. Gainesville is projected to start sophomore quarterback Baxter Wright this season, who may need time to get acclimated to the Red Elephants’ offense.

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: Johns Creek. The first matchup between the Gladiators and Gainesville ever and first-time participants in Corky will be an interesting one. I like Terian Williams II to be a game changer for the Gladiators who could be one of the more exciting players to watch in the 2022 class.

North Cobb vs. Buford

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: North Cobb. The Warriors took this game last year and I expect North Cobb to be even better this year as a top 5 team and state title contender in Class 7A. This is one of Buford’s most athletic teams, but North Cobb has the chance to win this battle with their long list of playmakers.

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: Buford. State championship momentum will carry the Wolves over North Cobb. Bryant Appling took over in 2019 — won a state title — and then defended that title last year. Good things are happening in Buford.

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: Buford. The only reason I’m riding with Buford is because of their experience playing with one another. A handful of key transfers made the move to North Cobb this offseason and it may take a game or two for them to click. Give me the Wolves in a shootout.

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: North Cobb. The Warriors are 3-0 all-time against the Wolves and have four players ranked in the Top 50 recruits in the Georgia Class of 2022. I’m not usually one to cheer for superteams, but LeBron isn’t on this one so it’s okay.

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: Buford. No, North Cobb. No, Buford. No, North Cobb. 14 top 100 players in the class of 2022 and 2023 per 247sports on the field at once? This will be a top-10 game of the season, but I’ll go with the Wolves.

McEachern vs. Kell

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: Kell. David Mbadinga had a breakout freshman season and is back after last year was cut short for what should be a massive junior season.

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: Kell. Since seeing Kell running back David Mbadinga in his first Corky Kell Classic at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2019, the kid just consistently impresses.  Returning for his junior year, I think it will be his breakout season and that it will start at Corky Kell.

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: Kell. Kell look to improve to 9-3 in the Corky Kell Classic behind stud running back David Mbindga. Bryce Archie should be able to keep McEachern in the game, but won’t be enough to take down the Longhorns.

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: McEachern. Granted, the Indians didn’t have the season they wanted last season, finishing 4-6, but 2022 three-star quarterback and Coastal Carolina-commit Bryce Archie has the talent to lead McEachern to a win over Kell. 2023 three-star defensive lineman Seven Cloud, a Georgia-commit, should also be able to cause disruption up front in addition to having the best name of anyone in this year’s Corky Kell.

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: Kell. Ground-and-pound gameplan with running back David Mbadinga and a stout defense front. I like Kell to be the first “Longhorns” team to win a game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. No horns down here.

Parkview vs. Mill Creek

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: Mill Creek

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: Mill Creek. Caleb Downs. The 6-foot, 185-pound four-star safety is the type of player who will make plays that win games. His experience and leadership can and will impact the game, tipping things toward the Hawks.

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: Parkview: Colin Houck showed his stripes as a sophomore, picking up over 1,700 yards through the air for 20 touchdowns. Houck will have to pick up the slack after losing his top two rushers from last season, but will look to show his maturity to start his junior year.

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: Mill Creek. Four-star safety Caleb Downs is only a junior and quarterback Hayden Clark should make strides after an efficient sophomore season. Although I think Parkview’s Colin Houck is the better quarterback in this matchup, the numbers are against the Panthers after they lost their two best rushers, who combined for 24 touchdowns, and top three wide receivers, who totaled 17 scores, to give Parkview 246 of its 337 points scored last season.

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: Mill Creek. The entire offensive line is back, the receiving corps is deep and four-star safety Caleb Downs is everywhere on the field. Mill Creek big.

Lowndes vs. Walton

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: Walton

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: Lowndes. Why? Jacurri Brown. The four-star Miami-commit returns after leading the Vikings to the semifinals last year. Brown passed for 1,537 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for 1,101 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. His experience should help the Vikings past Walton.

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: Lowndes. Elusive dual-threat quarterback Jacurri Brown has shown his ability to be effective through the air and on the ground, making it an extremely tough task to ask Walton to stop the Miami-commit.

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: Lowndes. The Vikings reached the semifinals in their first season under head coach Jamey DuBose and have a special talent in Jacurri Brown. Brown will benefit with Chase Belcher returning after he registered six receiving touchdowns in 2020, but despite graduating a lot of key players on defense, Lowndes still has a solid core group of defenders and could improve upon a season where they allowed 209 points.

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: Walton. I might be alone here, but the Raiders welcomed in three-star Memphis commit senior running back Sutton Smith and 2022 UNC commit defensive back Marcus Allen could be one of the best corners in Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday.

North Gwinnett vs. Hoover (AL.)

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: Hoover

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: North Gwinnett. Because I’m not picking a team from Alabama. I’m a Georgia Tech fan but, in this case, go Bulldogs. Ugh… I hate saying that.

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: Hoover. An Alabama team will come to Georgia and beat the Bulldogs, sound familiar UGA fans? The addition of Bennett Meredith will propel Hoover to victory in a high-scoring battle.

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: Hoover. North Gwinnett’s Bill Stewart and Hoover’s Josh Niblett are both state championship-winning football coaches, but Niblett’s track record (six state championships) is too impressive for me to pick the Bulldogs. However, if linebacker Grant Godfrey and defensive lineman Kayden McDonald have huge games, North Gwinnett could easily come out on top.

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: Hoover. I covered Alabama high school football last season and the Buccaneers very well could be the best team in the event. Head Coach Josh Niblett has a monster out West. Preview for more out-of-state teams to come?

Brookwood vs. Collins Hill

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: Collins Hill

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: Collins Hill. Cornerback Travis Hunter is rated as a five-star recruit and is committed to Florida State University. Hunter is the type of player who can and will impact a game and that alone could give the Eagles the advantage.

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: Collins Hill. The combination of Travis Hunter and Sam Horn is the best in the nation. Pairing that with the losses of De’Nylon Morrissette, Samuel Mbake, and Marquis Groves-Killebrew for Brookwood, Collins Hill will run away with this one, even with a solid performance from Dylan Lonergan.

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: Collins Hill. The Eagles are arguably the favorite to win the state championship in Georgia’s top classification this year. Travis Hunter was on the receiving end of 24 of Missouri-commit Sam Horn’s 41 touchdowns in 2020. The sky’s the limit for the senior duo this season.

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: Collins Hill. What’s the word count here? I’ll keep it to a minimum: Travis Hunter and Sam Horn.

Highest-scoring game

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: North Cobb vs. Buford

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: North Gwinnett vs. Hoover

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: North Cobb vs. Buford

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: North Cobb vs. Buford

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: Brookwood vs. Collins Hill

Lowest-scoring game

Craig Sager Jr, Chief Editor: McEachern vs. Kell

Seth Ellerbee, Writer: Dacula vs. Tucker

Ben Sokolik, Content Producer: Dacula vs. Tucker

Josh Talevski, Content Producer: Gainesville vs. Johns Creek

Brett Greenberg, Content Producer: McEachern vs. Kell

2021 Atlanta and North Georgia Building Trades Council 30th annual Corky Kell Classic official schedule:

*Home teams on the left-hand side*

Wednesday, August 18 at West Forsyth

5:30 p.m. Cherokee vs. Mays

8:30 p.m. West Forsyth vs. Carver-Atlanta

Thursday, August 19 at Dacula

5:30 p.m. Westlake vs. Archer

8:30 p.m. Dacula vs. Tucker

Friday, August 20 at Gainesville

5:30 p.m. Gainesville vs. Johns Creek

Friday, August 20 at North Cobb

8:30 p.m. North Cobb vs. Buford

Saturday, August 21 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

9:00 a.m. McEachern vs. Kell

11:45 a.m. Parkview vs. Mill Creek

2:45 p.m. Lowndes vs. Walton

5:45 p.m. North Gwinnett vs. Hoover (AL.)

8:45 p.m. Brookwood vs. Collins Hill


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