ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Eleven games and 33 hours of non-stop high school football kicked off on Wednesday and continues Thursday with two more games being played at West Forsyth High School.
Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Matt Stewart and Chris Millman, the Atlanta Falcons Vice President of Community Relations will call the North Forsyth-Archer and Cherokee Bluff-West Forsyth games. It all starts at 4:30 p.m.
How to watch Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic:
You can watch the games all season on PeachtreeTV or by downloading the ANF+ app on Roku, FireTV and AppleTV. You can watch today’s games here: https://www.atlantanewsfirst.com/livestream/ or in this story.
Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic Game Previews:
Archer vs. North Forsyth
Archer and North Forsyth will make their second appearance in the Corky Kell Dave Hunter Classic. Archer leads the series 1-0, having won 34-7 back in 2013. The Tigers are a relatively new program that has only been around since 2009 and will enter their second season under head coach Dante Williams who is looking to build on last year’s 2-8 record. Coach Williams talked about the foundational pieces in place and how it has made a difference to the program entering a new year.
“That is the biggest thing: the foundational pieces are in place: new staff, booster club, & philosophies. As you mentioned, the region we play in was not easy at all,” said Williams. “We may be in the toughest region but it doesn’t matter. We have had a tremendous spring and summer and I am really excited about year 2.”
North Forsyth head coach Robert Craft enters year eight with the Raiders and is coming off the most successful finish in his career while North Forsyth had its most successful finish since 2005 going 8-4. Last year, North Forsyth battled in a tough in Region 6-7A coming up short in the region championship game against Gainesville 34-21 on the road. North Forsyth had impressive victories against Shiloh, Lanier, Hambersham Central, Aplachee, and Jackson County. Entering 2023, the Raiders will have to deal with adversity. The Raiders will play their first couple of home games on the road this season after a storm damaged their field and scoreboard.
“The whole North Cumming and North Forsyth community got hammered on July 22. For us, it wiped out our scoreboard and has done enough damage to our field that it is going to have to be replaced,” said Craft. “We told our players that it is going to be a part of our story. We are going to have to relocate our scrimmage game and relocate our first home game. It’s going to be week to week and our guys are just going to have to own this and battle through adversity. More than anything we are just glad that no one got hurt.”
North Forsyth will return 15 seniors and all-region running back Karson McBrayer who last season rushed for 718 yards and three touchdowns last season. McBrayer also had 230 yards receiving and two touchdowns. On defense, Brody Hancock will be a key returning starter for the Raiders. Last year, Hancock was third on the team in sacks with eight. Braden O’Shields is another key defensive piece for the Raiders as he was selected to second-team all-region defense last season.
“We have a young senior class and this was a senior class that East Forsyth opened a few years ago. We have a small group of 15 seniors but they are anxious for their opportunity. They sat behind some bigger classes. We returned our entire offensive line and we returned all-region running back Karson McBrayer. We feel like the defensive line will be a strength of ours again. This group being small is a very close-knit group of seniors and are excited about their opportunity to lead.”
William Wallace is one of Archer’s key returning offense starters next season. Wallace scored three touchdowns in the first two games of the season. Wallace also made all-region first-team offense as a skill player. Jonathan Stafford will be another skill position player to watch in year two of his varsity career. As a freshman, Stafford made second-team all-region offense and was dynamic in the open field with the ball in his hands.
“I love where our skill players are at. We graduated quite a few on the offensive line, so we will be young. The kids are very hungry. On our defense, we are returning a lot so that is going to be very strong for us which is what you need. I feel like our pieces are there. We are still young but I really like where our skill players are at and the totality of our defense.
Coach Williams talked about being patient with success and how everything needed to be exemplary at Archer.
“We have a unique place at Archer. We have an incredible administration, an incredible community that wants to be there and see Archer win,” said Williams. “We want to compete, so all the pieces are there. We just have to put our heads down. You know success is a slow cooker not a microwave. Anything worth doing takes time.”
The Tigers are looking for a big bounce back in the 2023 season.
Cherokee Bluff vs. West Forsyth
Cherokee Bluff began playing football in 2018 while West Forsyth started its football program in 2007 and the first meeting between the programs will take place this season as the teams meet for the nightcap game on the second day of the Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic at West Forsyth.
Cherokee Bluff began its football history going 0-10 in the inaugural season in 2018 but rose quickly. The Bears – playing in Region 7-3A – went 3-7 in their second year and finished 10-2 and 11-1 in 2020 and 2021, respectively, winning back-to-back region titles.
“We are in year six and basically got off to a pretty good start, program wise,” said Cherokee Bluff head coach Tommy Jones. “In years three and four we won region championships, but unfortunately with that, we graduated that first group of kids that came through from the bottom, and they’re playing in college now. So we kind of have to begin again a little bit.”
Last season, the Bears slid back and finished 3-7 after reclassifying to Region 8-4A.
“We are just kind of getting back to basics,” Jones said. “Last year was a little bit of a step back and it’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster. But growth is not always linear, right?”
The returning starters bring experience for Cherokee Bluff and on the offensive side, quarterback Asher Wilson leads the way. The senior was 101-of-194 passing for 1,359 yards and 10 touchdowns last season while leading an offense that averaged 170 rushing to 148 passing yards per game. Wilson made 37 carries for 109 yards and four touchdowns during his junior campaign.
Ryan Graves, a 6-3, 215-pound tight end, missed last season with a knee injury sustained in 2022, his sophomore year, and his return as a senior has been widely anticipated.
“We are excited about getting him back,” Jones said. “He was honorable mention All-State as a sophomore before the injury at the end of that year, so we are excited about getting him back.”
On the ground, the Bears return the team’s leading rusher from last season – senior Perry Haynes. Last season, Haynes made 112 carries for 610 yards and five touchdowns. Also returning is Jaylon Carroll, who had 47 carries for 320 yards and two touchdowns last season. A group of five juniors – Chris Griffin, Caleb Cooper, Connor Griffin, KT Thompson, and Tre Brown – each scored one rushing touchdown last season.
The Bears will have to replace the five leading receivers who combined for 10 touchdown receptions, but Caleb Cooper (1 TD reception) and Nathan Richardson (1) return with experience.
“The good news about coming off a 3-7 season is that you have a number of returning kids, so that’s always encouraging,” Jones said. “We have a group of offensive linemen which have had legitimate experience. Probably the most recognizable name in that group is Caleb Williford.”
Williford, a Western Carolina-commit, is a 6-foot-5, 275-pound offensive tackle and defensive end and anchors the line.
On the other side of the field, head coach Dave Svehla is entering his fourth season leading the Wolverines. In 2020, he led the team to a 9-4 finish and quarterfinal appearance before the 5-6 finish in 2021 and 4-6 finish last season.
The team averaged 159 rushing to 106 passing yards per game last season while finishing 4-6 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The returning experience is key for the Wolverines to make a pushback into the postseason.
Sophomore Max Walraven is entering his first season with starting quarterback duties after the team graduated last year’s starter Jack Tomlinson, who was 69-of-136 passing for 889 yards and seven touchdowns. Walraven has experience and was 13-of-22 passing for 167 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman while adding 167 rushing yards and a touchdown. Including Walraven, West Forsyth rotated four quarterbacks in its 35-20 loss to Lanier in the scrimmage last week – Carter Centanni, Jackson Galt and Elliott Bryson.
Junior tight end Hunter Green will be a favorite target. At 6-foot-2 and 230-pounds, Green’s size could cause trouble for opposing defenders. Senior Henry Delp, senior Ryan Stewart and junior Cole Cato help anchor the West Forsyth receivers corps. In the backfield, sophomore Ivan Ehima could emerge this season after rushing for a 65-yard touchdown run against Lanier in a scrimmage.
On the defensive side, the Wolverines graduated its two leading tacklers – Raleigh Herbert and Brody Sanderson – but the team returns free safety Ryder Stewart, linebackers/defensive end Tyler Hoffman, linebacker Brady Allen and linebacker Ethan Nyandoro.
Corky Kell + Dave Hunter Classic Schedule:
Thursday, Aug. 17 at West Forsyth High School
4:30 p.m.- Archer vs. North Forsyth
8 p.m.- Cherokee Bluff vs. West Forsyth
Friday, Aug. 18 at Fellowship Christian High School
2 p.m.- Mt. Pisgah vs. Fellowship Christian
Friday, Aug. 18 at Rome’s Barron Stadium
5:30 p.m.- Creekside vs. Kennesaw Mountain
8:30 p.m.- Cass vs. Rome
Saturday, Aug. 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
10 a.m.- Marietta vs. Norcross
1 p.m.- Brookwood vs. McEachern
4 p.m.- North Gwinnett vs. Mill Creek
7 p.m.- Walton vs. Grayson
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