Walton

Walton coach Daniel Brunner, center, and the rest of the Raiders’ sideline celebrates following a missed Norcross field goal attempt in last year’s Corky Kell Classic at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Saturday games of this year’s Classic have been moved from Mercedes-Benz to Mill Creek High School because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 Corky Kell Classic is moving out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Instead of being played on the home field of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, the Saturday slate of games in the 29th annual Classic will be played at Mill Creek High School in Hoschton.

The announcement was made Tuesday, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cobb County has three teams scheduled to play in the showcase, with Kell facing Walton at 9 a.m. to open the day.

The two coaches — Kell’s Brett Sloan and Walton’s Daniel Brunner — said it was disappointing to have to move, but they agreed it was more important that the game be played regardless of venue.

“I’m disappointed for our kids,” Sloan said, “but I am excited we are just trying to play it. Our kids need to experience something normal.”

The other four games on the schedule for that day include Brookwood-Collins Hill at 11:45 a.m., Mill Creek-Parkview at 3 p.m., Hoover (Ala.)-Lowndes at 6 p.m. and North Gwinnett-McEachern at 9 p.m.

Each of the three Cobb schools have been anchors of the Classic. Kell — which shares a namesake with the Classic — has played the last 11 years, Walton has played 14 times and McEachern, as one of the original organizing schools, has played in it every year since its inception in 1992.

Former Brookwood coach Dave Hunter, the Classic’s executive director, told the Gwinnett Daily Post that Mercedes-Benz Stadium officials had to use guidelines set by the NFL for operating and sanitizing the stadium, which would have made the cost for renting the venue too expensive, considering the limited amount of fans who would be allowed in the building.

“They use NFL protocols, and it’s not (the stadium’s) fault,” Hunter said. “We could only have 6,000 people in there at one time. They wanted to take them out, clean the seats and let 6,000 new people in after every game. They wanted to do that after every game.”

Brunner said would not be ideal for his team to be going to Gwinnett County instead of downtown Atlanta, but he was confident that organizers would make the event the best it could possibly be.

“I hurt for my boys,” Brunner said, “but the decision made by the Classic is best for the kids.”

Because of the coronavirus and the potential it has of affecting the fall season, Brunner said he was concerned about some of his players and the recruiting issues not playing this season could bring. However, as it stands right now, he was excited about the potential exposure his team and players can get if the Classic game and the season itself can kick off as planned.

“It’s still on TV,” Brunner said. “Its going to be one of the first football games on TV in a long time. I think it will bring a different element to the game, because a lot of people are going to get to see us play.”

Classic organizers decided to play at Mill Creek because of the stadium’s 10,000-seat capacity and the amount of parking at the school.

The Classic was expanded to a four-day event this year, with games played in Forsyth County for the first time. West Forsyth is set to host the first two games — Cherokee-Carver (Atlanta) and West Forsyth-Mays — on Aug. 19.

Dacula will host two games Aug. 20 — Denmark-Tucker and Dacula-Archer — while Cedartown-Carrollton and Rome-Rockmart will be played at Rome’s Barron Stadium on Aug. 21.

“We just hope we get to play,” Hunter told the Gwinnett newspaper.

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