ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Kell will battle with Greater Atlanta Christian in a pivotal game in the Region 6-5A race with both teams unbeaten through three league contests.
Kell (6-1) has grown as a team through the first half of the season, winning six straight since a week one loss to Parkview. The return of Quarterback Bryce Clavon has taken the Longhorns offense to another level.
The offense has outscored their last three opponents 168-31 since his return against Centennial. While Kell coach Bobby May thought backup quarterback Kamari Nix did a tremendous job, Clavon gives them more options.
“It gives us more flexibility, for sure,” said coach May. “Bryce is a different type of passer; it opens up our passing attack. Bryce is more used to playing at that position for us. It helps us open up our offense a little more.”
With a group of star wide receivers, including Kyle Vaka and Peyton Zachary, the Longhorns stress defenses in ways few teams at the 5A level can. The mixture of size and speed at the position allows them to create different mismatches depending on the personnel of the different defenses they face. While Clavon and a very deep running back room will look to keep the team balanced.
“It allows us to be balanced. We feel we have some good weapons at receiver and running back,” May said. “Our quarterback is a weapon for sure, he can run and obviously he can throw the ball. I feel like we can take what the defense gives us. We don’t have to rely on one or the other to be balanced.”
The Spartans (7-0) have dominated opponents this season rebounding after two down seasons for GAC standards. The offense will rely on the running game led by running back Gianlucca Tiberia. The star back has already rushed for over 800 yards and nine touchdowns. The GAC running back will have to carry a heavy load for the Spartans to beat Kell and open passing lanes in the extremely talented Kell secondary. While GAC runs out of a spread offensive system, that does not mean they don’t run the ball.
“We want to have the ability to both run and pass the ball,” said coach Tim Hardy. “This year, the 2023 team has a couple of standout guys, so it always starts with your quarterback, Jack Stanton, who is playing really well. We have some outstanding receivers, but we also have a good running attack. GL Tiberia is very explosive. We have the ability to do both, which allows us to feature our guys but also take advantage of the opportunities we are given.”
In the passing game, GAC has a dynamic group of receivers led by Xavier Daisy and Gabe Daniels, who has an offer from Georgia Tech. Along with them, the Spartans have a division-one prospect at quarterback in Jack Stanton. These weapons give the Spartan offense the ability to be explosive but will have to take their shots wisely against the Kell secondary.
The Spartan defense will have to continue the success they’ve had throughout the season, only giving up 12.7 points per game. They will look to a dominant front seven led by edge rusher Micah Pryor to allow the secondary to focus solely on defending the pass. But this defense is built on a bond that has been built since childhood.
“We have an outstanding group of seniors,” said Coach Hardy “It’s been a group we’ve been excited about since they were young, and it’s really fun to see them as seniors. It’s a really tight-knit group. They compete with each other, they get after each other, but in a good, brotherly way. It’s the strength of the group. We don’t have an ESPN 300 guy in the group; we just have a lot of really good players.”
On defense, Kell will lean on its star-studded secondary to slow the GAC passing game. The secondary is led by three-star prospects Marqavious Saboor, Cedric Franklin and Kemari Nix and has been dominant through the first seven games of the season helping the defense only give up 18.7 points per game.
“We are going to play man, we are going to make you beat us,” said coach May “We are able to dedicate more guys to stopping the run because we trust our guys in the pass game. We are very happy with our depth on the backend, and we trust those guys. "
The Longhorns’ front seven may not be as star studded as the secondary, but it still has some great pieces. The linebacker core is mostly young but is led by three-star Arkansas-commit Justin Logan, who can dominate the run game. However, on the defensive line maybe the most underrated player on the field.
“The guy you’re going to see make a lot of plays is Tyshawn Matt,” said May “He is a junior and a two-year starter for us. He’s got 60 tackles and nine sacks. He’s undersized, but he’s physical and athletic, and he is going to make plays.”
You can watch the game live on the Peachtree Sports Network and on the Atlanta News First app.
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