Two-way athlete Julian Burris, who missed most of the Longhorns’ last two seasons due to injuries, had somewhat of a coming-out party Saturday at the Georgia Dome as Kell beat Chattahoochee 26-16 in the opening game of the Corky Kell Classic.
Burris had three receptions for 89 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown catch with 4:46 left in the first quarter, and he returned the second-half kickoff 94 yards for score to give the Longhorns a 20-10 advantage.
Burris’ 61-yard completion to Errol Breaux, off a lateral from quarterback Matthew McGuigan on second-and-13 late in the fourth quarter, helped set up Kell’s final touchdown — a 5-yard run from Jay Moxey with 1:36 on the clock — giving the Longhorns the 10-point victory.
“Burris is an unknown to some people, but we’ve been watching him for years,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “As a sophomore, he had his kidney lacerated on a fumbled punt against Grayson and he missed most of the season. Then, last year, he had a torn meniscus and he didn’t come back until (the) Southwest DeKalb (playoff game), and he was the guy that caught the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds.
“I think the secret’s out, and we’re probably not going to be able to hide him anymore. The great thing about him is that he has a great supporting cast.”
McGuigan was 6-of-11 for 138 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while Breaux had three receptions for 101 yards and a score. Burris, Derrick White and Taylor Henkle each had an interception off Chattahoochee quarterback Taz Wilson.
“We’ve had great defensive backs at Kell going back quite a few years,” Cook said. “Those guys in the past elevated the standard of that position to what it is, and everybody that gets back in there has been living up to that.”
Chattahoochee (0-1) opened the game with a 17-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 3-yard touchdown run from Kieron Ashley. But only 14 seconds later, Burris’ 80-yard touchdown reception on Kell’s first play of the game left the Longhorns trailing 7-6 after a missed point-after attempt.
Chattahoochee responded with another scoring opportunity as Adam Abdellaoui converted a 47-yard field goal, giving the Cougars a 10-6 advantage late in the first quarter.
It took some time, but Kell’s defense began to figure out the Chattahoochee offense, which stalled out in Kell territory on its next two drives.
The Longhorns put together a drive of their own, moving the ball 87 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown as McGuigan found Breaux for a 39-yard strike that gave Kell a lead it would not relinquish — 13-10 with 1:20 remaining in the first half.
“It took us a little while to get adjusted,” Cook said. “There was no film on them offensively, so we didn’t know what they were going to do. We were just reacting. It’s been a while since somebody marched down the field on our defense and put a touchdown on us right off the bang. That was a little unnerving because I don’t know if it was us or them. But we settled in. That’s Kell defense — play defense, run the ball and have a big play every now and again.”
Burris’ interception to end the first half, and his kickoff return to start the second, proved to be key plays, along with the sacks generated by Ethan Elliott, Keith Hampton and Nicholas Johnson.
Chattahoochee had to settle for two third-quarter field goals and was shut out in the fourth quarter.
Wilson completed 16 of 29 passes for 174 yards and three interceptions for the Cougars. Avery Ward had seven catches for 79 yards.
Kell also beat Chattahoochee in last year’s Corky Kell Classic. In all, the Longhorns are 3-1 in the annual event named after the school’s namesake.
“It’s always good to get a win, whether it’s the first game, but especially if it’s the last game,” Cook said. “We’re looking to do that, get a win in the last game of the season. One game does not make a season, whether it’s win or a loss. We’ll just continue to be who we are and work hard and make sure we do what we have to do to be successful.”