28th Year brings big news for MetroPCS Corky Kell Classic

The MetroPCS Corky Kell Classic is proud to announce the addition of three landmark partnerships that will take the 28-year event to new heights in 2019. Gwinnett-based Coolray Field is joining Rome’s Barron Stadium and Mercedes-Benz Stadium as this year’s trio of hosts and will be the site of Day 2 of the Classic on Friday, Aug. 23. A double-header featuring Archer against Tucker at 5:30 p.m. and defending Class AAAAAAA state champion Milton vs. 11-time state champion Buford at 8:30 p.m. will be the first-ever football games played at the venue.

Additionally, CBS 46 will bring the event to network television for the first time in its history as the new broadcasting partner of the Corky Kell Classic. Also, the Classic is excited to announce that the Georgia Army National Guard has signed on to become the event’s naming presenting sponsor. The official title of the event will be the MetroPCS Corky Kell Classic presented by the Georgia Army National Guard.

“It’s grown so much,” said Corky Kell Executive Director Dave Hunter. “It started out as a double-header in 1992 and now it is a three-day, 18-team extravaganza. We are excited about this year, not only because of the quality of the football that is going to be played, but also the quality of the venues, and the platform that our new broadcasting partnership will provide. It’s just a first-class event. And I think, the best starting season event in the United States.”

“From a television side, we have been very lucky to work with Georgia Public Broadcasting, the Fox regionals and for the last two years, Channel 11’s (WXIA) sister station Channel 36,” said Corky Kell Director and Score Atlanta President I.J. Rosenberg. “But to the get Corky Kell on a local network like CBS is a huge milestone for the event. Look at it this way: We are going on a network that had the Super Bowl last month, the NCAA Basketball Tournament and Final Four this month and then the Masters in April. That’s a home run for us.

“The addition of Coolray Field makes all the sense in the world considering Gwinnett may have the best high school football in the country,’’ added Rosenberg. “To partner with the Stripers and the Gwinnett Sports Commission will make us stronger on Friday night and we love having the National Guard on hand at all of our events.’’

Georgia High School Football’s competitiveness, excitement and star power draws significant attention each season, and the state’s ever-growing influence on the college football landscape is spiking interest like never before. The MetroPCS Corky Kell Classic is setting the ultimate stage to kickoff the 2019 high school football season and shine a spotlight on Georgia’s exceptional gridiron greatness.

When the 2018 college football season concluded, Steve Slay of the Georgia High School Football Historians Associations released a report that put Georgia High School Football’s presence in college football into full perspective. A total of 4,331 former Georgia High School football players were on college rosters during the 2018 season. The FBS led the way with 1,111 players and 596 belonged to schools in the Power 5 Conferences. There were also 881 playing in DII, 549 in DIII, 505 in NAIA and 353 on JUCO rosters.

All 18 teams participating in the 2019 Corky Kell reached the state playoffs in 2018 and their returning rosters contain a growing list of nationally sought-after college-bound prospects that is shaping up to make this the most talented lineups the event has ever seen. For those not coming to the games, it will be must-see TV.

“CBS46 and Peachtree TV are thrilled to partner with the Corky Kell Classic in its 28th year,” said WGCL/CBS46 General Manager Lyle Banks. “The Corky Kell Classic is a significant event in the Atlanta area and we look forward to broadcasting and showcasing the talent within the state’s top high school football programs.”

Marietta High School’s five-star U.S. Army All-American Arik Gilbert will take the field Day 1 as the Blue Devils face the Rome Wolves. Gilbert is the No. 1 rated athlete in the country at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds and lines up at tight end, defensive end and receiver. Tennessee-commit and four-star Harrison Bailey quarterbacks Marietta, and the Blue Devils’ roster also features 4-star defensive end B.J. Ojulari, 4-star offensive lineman Jake Wray, 4-star safety and Florida-commit Rashad Torrence II, 3-star running back Kimani Vidal, 3-star athlete Dawson Ellington and 3-star receivers Taji Johnson and Kobe Stewart.

On Day 2, Milton will have 6-foot-5, 325-pound Clemson-commit Paul Tchio in the trenches and Arizona State-commit T Lee and Oklahoma-commit Jalen Huff will be suiting up for Buford.

The third and final day will be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a five-game lineup. McEachern and Brookwood are the only two programs that have played in all 28 years of the Corky Kell and are going to square off in it for just the fourth time in the 6 p.m. slot. McEachern’s receiving corps has Class of 2021 4-star Dacari Collins and 4-star Alabama-commit Javon Baker in it. Quarterback Carlos Del Rio Wilson will be under center and he enters his junior year with offers from Miami, Georgia Tech, FSU, Florida and Arkansas on the table. Defensive lineman and Georgia-commit Jamil Burroughs leads McEachern’s experienced defensive front. Also on Saturday, Walton faces Norcross and is set to debut its up-and-coming underclassman quarterback. Class of 2022 prospect Zak Rozsman played behind Nevada-signee Austin Kirksey in 2018 and completed 51-of-73 passes (70 percent) for 783 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in his backup role. Rozsman stands 6-foot-3 and earned MVP of the Georgia Elite Freshman game this December after competing 16-of-23 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns. Vanderbilt offered Rozsman a scholarship in March.

Georgia Association of Broadcasters President Bob Houghton, who will handle the play-by-play duties on Saturday’s first game, played a key role in bringing the Classic and CBS46 together.  Coolray Field’s location in Gwinnett County offers a convenient commute for its four participating schools and is half the combined distance that Georgia State Stadium was for the same group of schools last year. Coolray Field is home to the Atlanta Braves Triple-A affiliate, the Gwinnett Stripers, as well as Atlanta United 2. It seats 10,427 for baseball and 7,362 for soccer. The conversion to a football field will be a similar process to what took place last November when Kennesaw State defeated Jacksonville State 60-52 in a five overtime thriller at Suntrust Park. The same goalposts that were used in that game will be transported over to Coolray Field for the Corky Kell.

“To be able to have Corky Kell come out and have a presence in Gwinnett County and at Coolray Field, we could not be more excited about it,” said Gwinnett Sports Commission Executive Director Stan Hall, who helped put together the deal with the Braves. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to show the pride that Gwinnett has for high school football and also to show off our facilities to folks who may not be traditional baseball fans. Coolray was built for baseball, but over the years we have tried to introduce some other sports disciplines in that facility. We’ve never done football there, so this is a historic occasion for us to put goalposts up and bring football to Coolray. The stands are going to be packed and I think it is going to offer a vibe that other sites wouldn’t be able to offer.”

Said Adam English, the Stripers new vice president and general manager, “We are proud to partner with the Corky Kell Classic and the County of Gwinnett, to play football at Coolray Field in 2019.  Being that we are Gwinnett County’s baseball team, it only seems fitting that we get to host a couple of Gwinnett’s top football programs playing in one of the most storied high school football tournaments in the state. Coolray Field is a premier sports facility and we look forward to showing it off for High School Football fans on August 23rd.”

The Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation has also thrown their support behind the Friday games. Said Senior Executive Director Aaron Lupuloff, “Our foundation appreciates the visibility that Corky Kell brings to the Gwinnett County athletes because it helps them greatly in their pursuit of achieving athletic and academic success at the next level.’’

A press conference will be held at Coolray Field Tuesday, March 12, at 10 a.m. Those interested in attending, email credential requests to Graham David at gdavid@scoreatl.com or call him at 513-600-6557. For more information on the Classic, go to CorkyKellClassic.com

2019 Corky Kell Schedule

Thursday, Aug. 22 at ROME HIGH SCHOOL
5:30 p.m. Ridgeland vs. Calhoun
8:30 p.m. Rome vs. Marietta

Friday, Aug. 23, at COOLRAY FIELD
5:30 p.m. Archer vs. Tucker
8:30 p.m. Buford vs. Milton

Saturday, Aug. 24, at MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM
9 a.m. Kell vs. Mays
11:45 a.m. Nocross vs. Walton
2:45 p.m. North Gwinnett vs. Colquitt County
5:45 p.m. Brookwood vs. McEachern
8:45 p.m. Mill Creek vs. East Coweta