There’s the temptation in mid-August to watch the Corky Kell Classic and believe it’s a definitive revelation about which teams are going to contend for the state titles, especially in the highest classification.
And it’s true that 12 teams that have played in the Corky Kell since it started in 1992 have gone on to win state championships. But it’s also interesting that two teams that lost in the Corky Kell still won championships.
Which brings us to this year’s Class AAAAAAA semifinals.
All four semifinalists played in the Corky Kell Classic this year – and three lost.
Here’s how each fared:
North Gwinnett lost to Walton 31-28. Neither team advanced a round in the playoffs the season before, and both had new head coaches, so not much was made of this game. To everyone's surprise, it was the last game that either would lose the rest of the regular season as both won region championships.
McEachern lost to Mill Creek 23-19. McEachern had suffered significant graduation losses, and the No. 5 preseason ranking was granted for tradition and respect alone, not proven roster talent. McEachern lost its next game too, against Grayson, failed to win its region, lost to unranked arch-rival Hillgrove, entered the playoffs 7-3 and trailed Lowndes 21-0 in the first half of the second half. Six well-played quarters later, and McEachern suddenly has as good a shot as anybody.
Brookwood lost to Archer 25-17. Brookwood was ranked No. 6 in preseason, with many starters returning and hopes that this was the best Broncos team in seven years. Turns out those hopes were justified. But Brookwood started 0-2, losing to teams whose combined record the year before was 8-13. As it turned out, Archer and Walton were pretty good. Each would go 10-0. Brookwood wouldn’t lose again either and is still playing while Archer and Walton were eliminated by Colquitt County, Brookwood's next opponent.
Colquitt County beat Norcross 20-17. Not bad for an opener, but all that impressive, either. Time ran out as Norcross scurried to line up for a potential game-tying field goal from the state’s top-rated place-kicker. Norcross would finish 5-6. Colquitt then finished third in its region. Three playoff road wins later and Colquitt is in a familiar position, in the semifinals for the eighth time in nine seasons. One thing that Colquitt County's 2014 and 2015 state titles had in common - they started with victories in the Corky Kell Classic.
Here are the 12 state champions that have played in their opening games in the Corky Kell. Of those, 1996 Brookwood and 2009 Camden County lost in the Corky Kell.
2015 Colquitt County
2014 Colquitt County
2009 Camden County*
2008 Camden County
1997 Thomas County Central
*Lost in the Corky Kell, won in the state finals.