The Kell Longhorns and the Mays Raiders faceoff on August 24th at Mercedes Benz Stadium in the opener of the day’s five-game marathon. Last season, Kell escaped narrowly with a 36-34 win over East Coweta. Meanwhile, Mays was handed a 42-26 loss to Norcross. In Kell’s nine seasons of being invited to the Corky Kell, the program has an impressive 7-2 record. Mays made its Corky Kell debut last year as the first-ever team from Atlanta Public Schools to play in the event.
Heading into the 2019 season, the Mays Raiders look to improve on their 6-5 record. This record is atypical for the program, which stamped 10+ wins in each of the previous four seasons, winning region titles in 2016 and 2017. Coach Battle in his 4th season with the Raiders and has a well-rounded roster with a lot of talent to compete out of Region 5-AAAAAA. In 2017, Mays had a +305 score differential, which dropped to +68 the following season. With a couple of their offensive weapons and defensive starters graduating in the 2018 season, look for many players that have patiently waited for their chance to step up and fill the void. All in all, 90% of this year’s team comprises of returning varsity players.
At some positions there is a clear deficiency of experience which will arise a few questions for the program but as coach Battle assured,” The weight room has been great for these kids. Many have hit milestones for the first time since they’ve been here. You can tell how much stronger these players been getting.”
Currently, the Raiders have 12 players with D1 offers. Look for 3-star RB Tyree Nelson to lead the backfield given the experience he already has under his belt. Last season he rushed for just under 700 yards on 99 carries with 8 TD’s. “Tyree brings everything to paper, [his play style] resembles Marshall Faulk,” says Battle. “The game is shifting, and the RB becoming more premier. If he’s hot, we are going to keep putting the ball in his hands.”
Nelson is a special talent that runs primarily zone and power sets and has great pass catching ability out of the backfield, which brings a whole new dimension to the offense. He has plenty of D1 offers from Pitt (his pinned tweet), Western Carolina, UNLV, UNC Charlotte, Eastern Kentucky University, Univ of Akron, etc., but nothing is set in stone yet.
On offense, dual threat QB Andrew Banks will be in command, lining up behind two returning starters on the offensive line, yet all have the linemen have varsity experience. The line ranges from the biggest player RT Demetrial Bivins at 6’6 315 to smallest player C Kaleb Wimberly at 6’0 220. Banks has a D1/NFL build and was praised as a “Baby Cam Newton” by Battle. His top targets will include 6’2 175 lbs. WR Zaire Thornton who was the second leading receiver last season behind Terrance Morton, who now plays for the West Georgia Wolf Pack. Thornton will run the whole route tree. The fastest player on the team, who they will look to get mismatches for is senior WR/DB Tavarious Carswell. His length on defense helps him make excellent open field tackles and stay stride for stride with his receiver.
JaQuari Wiggles, the 3-star TE/DE a hard-hitting beast with 18 total D1 offers. After originally leaning towards Tennessee, Wiggles had a change of heart and is now a hard commit to stay in his hometown and attend Georgia Tech. Last season in the Corky Kell, Wiggles reeled in two touchdown passes against Norcross. That was in fact the first game he had ever played with Mays, because he had transferred in from Pace Academy after his sophomore season.
Defensively, his game revolves around shedding blocks off the edge and pouncing on the ball. Offensively, Wiggles uses his 6-foot-3, 260-pound frame to spark big plays.
Some other key playmakers in the secondary to compliment Carswell, are UAB commit Daronte Jones and Wofford commit Cario Googer. Jones has a 6’2 180 lbs. long body build, resembling Richard Sherman. His speed and length help him cover a lot of area. Googer plays physical on the line and doesn’t let anything come easy, rounding out a stout defensive back corp. At the hybrid linebacker position Drevion Scott is going to start, while they are still in competition to see who the inside linebackers will be.
Playing in the trenches, at the 3-tech lines up senior Kiwannos Washington a 6’3 235 lbs. interior linemen. He will line up at the shoulder on either side of the ball. Alongside him at the 5-technique lines up two-way senior Chris Carter a 6’7 235 interior linemen, also playing the H/TE role on offense. Lastly, at the nose tackle lines up 6’3 220 senior Tavarious Pitts.
In the first round of the 2018 GHSA football playoffs Kell won in a hard-earned victory over Carver, Atlanta, however, Buford put a halt to the joy, smashing Kell in the 2nd round of the playoffs 44-11. Still searching for their first state championship since the program was founded in 2003, head coach Brett Sloan and the Kell Longhorns are knocking on the gate. The Longhorns have made the playoffs 11 seasons straight. Even though many of the players now have years of experience under their belt, they still lost all three first selection all state players to graduation.
Offensively for Kell High School, junior Corbin LaFrance will step up into the spotlight as Kell’s replacement for 3-star All-State QB Evan Conley. Conley was an athlete at the QB position and is now headed to Louisville for his freshman year. “Corbin gotta be Corbin, focus on doing all the right things,” said Sloan. “He led us deep [to the finals] at the Corky Kell 7v7 tournament, so we are looking good where we are at.”
LaFrance is a young kid with cannon for an arm. He likes to drop back and fire off deep balls with great accuracy to give his receivers a chance to go up and make a big play. His best football attributes are his pinpoint accuracy and his decision-making. Corbin does a great job spreading the field with his distribution. By not focusing on just one play style or a couple receivers, he is able to keep the defense on their toes.
Stuffing the line up front is junior Jamari Steward. He holds down the interior with senior Andrew Parlato, who started several games last season. Also, senior Stephen Hood is coming into his own and expected to be a great player. Senior TE/DE Arthur Nwandu is 6’5” with great blocking skills. These players on the line provide the team with needed run blocking and give LaFrance time to set his feet and fire off accurate pass attempts. They are excited about the growth of these kids and excited for what they can do this upcoming season.
Corbin’s primary receivers will be Jaylon Brown, Jamal Hill, Xavier Perris and Camron Ball. This corps has started since their sophomore year, so they have seasoned experience and are now bigger and faster than prior years. Junior Jaylon Brown is extremely shifty and oftentimes is used in screen plays out of the backfield. Junior Jamal Hill plays fundamental football at the wideout. Hill has excellent route-running ability and has soft hands able to make tough catches with the defense right on him. Senior Camron Ball is quick off the line and can fool the defense backs with his special route running ability. With a low center of gravity, Ball is hard to bring down. Being a WR/DB more than likely helps him with both aspects of his game, knowing how to read the coverage and where to find space in the defense. Junior Xavier Perris has absolute blowby speed as a utility man. He is utilized as a receiver, running back, and return man. He is extremely shifty and able to slip through gaps in the defense, if he breaks into the secondary, good luck trying to stop him.
Unfortunately, the team will be without three-star RB Ebony Johnson, Maryland commit. Instead, Kell will line up with senior BJ Abson and Xavier Perrish. Abson is a relentless runner who will breakthrough arm tackles with ease and always brings fight to every play he’s involved in, churning for those yards after contact. Perrish is a big playmaker with blazing fast speed great and can stop on a dime. Often, Perrish will line up out wide as a receiver or slip out of the backfield to give the quarterback a dump-off option. If unmarked or flat-footed, he will burn you deep with his pace. Some of the guys farther down the depth chart who are looking to get more touches and provide support are junior Tyler Barrett and freshman David Mbadinga.
Luckily for Kell, they are returning 3 starting offensive linemen and have even more players up front with game experience. “Senior DE Marcus Anderson anchors the line for us,” said Sloan. “Seniors Branson Hall and Vincent Dinkins have the talent to be a power 5 or SEC type of recruit. Senior OLB Nate Woghiren can cause havoc in the middle of the defense.”
In the secondary, DB/WR Camron Ball is regarded as a leader and will be a problem for opponents because he reads the game well and can minimize gains. In addition, he cautiously provides a ball-hawk perception, but doesn’t overdo it. Junior Miykayah Vinson had a couple interceptions and will be the team’s primary punt returner. With a couple punts brought to the crib for touchdowns last season, opposing teams should be weary not to give him too much open field to work with. As a cornerback he is very handsy off the line and always makes sure to stay close and goal side of the receiver.
Can 3rd-year coach of the Kell Longhorns, Brett Sloan take the next step, edging out their seemingly unstoppable regional rivals, the Rome Wolves and their +461 score differential. What about other tough rivals such as Carrollton or East Paulding? We will find out this upcoming season in a very competitive Region 7-AAAAA. They’ve gotten bigger and stronger on the line; the strongest they’ve been as a team this year. Will it be enough to get over the hump and compete for a state championship?
Will Kell High School improve to 8-2 in their Corky Kell appearances or will Mays High School step up and give its program, as well as Atlanta Public Schools a historic victory at Mercedes-Benz? Tune in on August 24th at 9 A.M. and find out.