Game: Carrollton vs. Kell, Saturday, 9 a.m. at McEachern
Last year: First meeting
All-time series: First meeting
Prediction: Carrollton 28, Kell 14
TV/Radio: SPSO/92.9 FM
High expectations are a given when a team is coming off its first appearance in the Class AAAAA state semifinals.
The Longhorns have been a force ever since it dropped from the state’s highest classification, winning three of their last four region championships. They’ve also made a state quarterfinal during that stretch.
There will be new faces suiting up on varsity this season, many of whom are talented. But it appears that they’re still getting acclimated to the varsity level and may take some lumps in their first couple of games.
“We’re just inconsistent right now,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “In our scrimmage against Marietta, we marched the length of the field and we looked as good as we did last year. Then, our next drive, we get four penalties against us and three sacks. We’re just not consistent. Hopefully, with time and experience, that will change.”
Carrollton is expecting to be a tough season opener for Kell on Saturday in the Corky Kell Classic.
The Trojans have been in the playoffs every year since 1987 and have played for a state championship twice in the last four years including last season. The Trojans also have a new coach in Ed Dudley who led Walton to the Class AAAAA state semifinals in 2004 and 2007.
Kell does have returning starters from last year’s team that can help mold some of the younger players. Quarterback Cameron Rosendahl is one of them. Bryson Armstrong is also back to play receiver and linebacker, and Derrick White is expected to be a force in the secondary.
“We can’t beat ourselves (Saturday),” Cook said. “We have to line up and max their physicality. We can’t make the mistakes of missed blocks and missed tackles. Missed blacks and tackles add up.”
— By Adam Carrington
Game: Sprayberry at South Paulding, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Sprayberry 30, South Paulding 0 (Oct. 23, 2009)
All-time series: Sprayberry leads 2-0
Prediction: South Paulding 27, Sprayberry 24
The head coaches from Sprayberry and South Paulding have shared a similar career path.
Sprayberry’s Billy Shackelford and South Paulding’s Ed Koester both worked as assistant coaches at South Cobb High School. And Koester went on to be the head coach of the Eagles for five seasons before becoming the head man at South Paulding a year ago.
Both men have a mutual respect for each other.
“I’ve known Ed for many years, and he’s a good man and football coach,” Shackelford said.
Koester returned the compliment.
“Billy and I are good friends within our coaching network, and he’s done a great job at Sprayberry,” Koester said. “Our professional relationship is one of good sportsmanship.”
Sprayberry will face the difficult task of opening its season in Douglasville against a South Paulding squad that won 10 games in 2013.
“One of the best things you can do to get a good measure of your football team is to play quality competition,” Shackelford said. “We know that South Paulding is going to be prepared and give us a good look. We’ll need to limit our penalties, catch the football on offense and be in the right positions defensively.”
The Yellow Jackets will look to get things started on the ground tonight behind the running of Rakeem Myricks and Trey Sermon as new quarterback Andrew Pereira settles into his role.
South Paulding will try to get the ball to junior receiver L.J. Pope, who caught 13 touchdown passes a year ago.
Tonights’s contest will be the only non-region game this season for Sprayberry, and it will be an opportunity to win a season opener for the first time since 2007.
The Yellow Jackets, who won only two games last year, are optimistic coming into this season’s campaign and openly discussing their desire to make the state playoffs.
“We’re excited about where we’re at and made no secret about our expectations for this team,” Shackelford added. “We have a good group of experienced guys, a solid coaching staff and look forward to having a good season.”
— By E. Marcel Pourtout
MDJ Sports Writer