ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - An extremely talented and upset-minded Cass (5-5) travels to No. 3 Kell (9-1) as the GHSA for the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. The teams have faced each other four times, from 2017-2019, while they were region opponents. Kell dominated the series, winning all four previous matchups; however, much has changed since then.
The Colonels comes into the matchup as the four seed out of Region 7-5A. For the first time in school history, they have made the playoffs for three consecutive years. Head coach Steven Gates has the Cass program in a place it’s never been before, with a roster that is one of the most talented in 5A.
The Colonels have come out of one of the toughest region in the state, which had five teams ranked at some point in the season. The four-seed came down to the final week of the season, seeing Cass beat traditional power Calhoun for the first time since 1984 to make the playoffs. The Colonel’s offense has been explosive and averages 40 or more points in each of their five victories.
Sophomore quarterback Brodie McWhorter, who holds offers from Florida State and Mississippi State, has been the engine behind their offense. Liberty-commit Devin Henderson has been the main running back in the 2023 season, helping keep the offense balanced and on schedule, taking pressure off McWhorter and the passing game. The team has grown over gates first three years, the growth has given them confidence in the run game.
“We are just now to the point after three years where we feel like we can run the football and mash people.” Said Cass head coach Steven Gates. “We’ve been somewhat undersized and young in my first couple years. Now some of those younger guys are getting a little bit older, and we got some size.”
The receiving core has one of the biggest weapons in the state in Georgia Commit Sacovie White, who is second in the state in receiving regardless of classification with over 1,100 yards. White will look to attack the star studded Kell secondary and create more space for both the Cass rushing attack and other wide receivers.
The Cass defense has play makers throughout the defense. The front seven, led by Kevin Henderson and Appalachian State-Commit Kaden Ellis, who was recently named Region 7 5A Defensive Player of the Year. They have both dominated opposing offenses, battering both the run and pass, helping give up only 23.3 points per game.
When it comes to defending the pass, the Colonels will look to a star defensive back duo of Liberty Commit Devin Henderson and Georgia Commit Sacovie White. The pair will have to play well against the dynamic Kell receivers, trying to force mistakes and turnovers to give Cass a better chance to win.
Kell enters the playoffs fresh off its first region title in a decade. The Longhorns are looking to keep their resurgence under second year coach Bobby May going into the playoffs. Kell has won nine straight, since a week one loss to 7A Parkview, winning with an average margin of victory of 25.9 points per game. While the Region title in decade was huge.
“It will be great to look back on,” said coach Bobby May. “Our goals however are still ahead of us, and we need to stay focused on that.”
After playing in week one, starting quarterback Bryce Clavon missed the next three weeks playing baseball, where he is expected to be a first round-pick in next years MLB draft. After Calvons returning to the team, the Kell offense has been noticeably more dynamic, scoring 52.5 PPG and scoring no less than 42 points in that span. Clavons return was one of the major turning point of th eseason.
“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.”
The dynamic duo of Kyle Vaka and Payton Zackary give Clavon two of the best weapons in 5A. The pair combined for over 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns. However, the Cass Secondary is the best secondary the Longhorns have faced since their week one loss to Parkview.
The Kell rushing attack, while not as flashy as the star studded passing game, has kept the offense on schedule. With running backs Tyriq Green and Quinterrius Gipson leading the way in the rushing game combining for 1,417 yards and 20 touchdowns averaging 9.2 yards per carry. While they have been under the radar they will have to be successful for Kell’s season to continue.
The Kell defense is maybe the most talented in 5A. Led by a secondary with three three-star prospects in Marqavious Saboor, Cedric Franklin and Kemari Nix. The secondary will look to slow Brodie McWhorter and Sacovie White something few have been able to do. But they will be the best secondary Cass has seen.
The front seven is led by Arkansas-commit Justin Logan in the linebacker room. He quarterbacks the defense and has been one of the top leaders of the defense. The defensive line is led by Tyshawn Matt, who may be undersized, but he is physical and dynamic, leading the team with 11 sacks and having 66 total tackles.
You can watch the game live at 8 p.m. this Friday on the Peachtree Sports Network, on the Atlanta News First app.
Copyright 2023 WANF. All rights reserved.