Already home of the Cobb All-Star Senior Bowl, the school will host the inaugural Georgia Elite Junior Classic at Walter Cantrell Stadium on Dec. 28.
The game is expected to feature 70 of the state’s top high school juniors in the state and will be televised live regionally and broadcast locally on radio, according to a release from game organizers.
Prospective players will have to meet a certain academic requirement, and character in the classroom, the community and at home. A selection committee of coaches, high school administrators and recruiting experts will pick the players, with rosters set to be announced in August.
“It seems like the trend now is to move away from senior all-star games to junior all-star games because the recruiting climate is greater for juniors,” said McEachern athletic director Jimmy Dorsey, who is one of the event’s organizers, alongside former Brookwood football coach Dave Hunter and I.J. Rosenberg of Score Atlanta.
“Most of the seniors in a senior all-star game already know where they’re going. The upper echelon of kids have already committed. The junior games become more interesting to fans because the kids are still being recruited, and more coaches can be involved to get an idea of what a kid might bring to the table for their team.”
McEachern was chosen to host the game because of its size and recent facility upgrades, which includes the school’s large physical education building and the installation of new turf and a new video board within the stadium.
“We were approached because of the renovations we’ve made to the field, and because we don’t cost as much as the Georgia Dome,” Dorsey said. “With the sponsorships, and maybe the television deal, this has a chance to be a big game. We’ll be able to showcase elite talent, and kids still trying to get to schools, and coaches looking for players, will make this game more meaningful.
“We figured that, with all of the marketing and sponsorships behind this thing, since we have the facility, why shouldn’t we host this (at McEachern). It has a chance to grow and be a unique event.”
Each team will have about 35 to 40 players, with Walton’s Rocky Hidalgo and Ed Pilcher, from Berrien High School in south Georgia, serving as head coaches. Each team will have five assistants and an administrative assistant.
“I’ve been fortunate to coach GACA (games) and the Cobb Senior Bowl, and I’ve been fortunate to work with some other great coaches and to learn from them,” Hidalgo said. “When the coaching job for the Junior Classic was offered to me, I couldn’t turn it down.”
Hidalgo’s staff will include some of metro Atlanta’s top head coaches — Brookwood’s Mark Crews, Corey Jarvis of Mays, Centennial’s Jeff Carlberg and Bob Sphire of North Gwinnett. Longtime Walton assistant Tripp Allen will also be coaching, as will Paul Standard of St. Pius X.
Former Walton coach Ed Dudley, now the head coach at Ware County, is part of a contingent from other state powers that includes Valdosta’s Rance Gillespie, Lowndes’ Christian Hunnicutt, Northside-Warner Robins’ Kevin Kinsler and Lamar County’s Franklin Stephens.
“I’m very excited about this,” Hidalgo said. “It gives me a chance to sit around and talk football with some great minds, which is what I like to do. It’s an opportunity to learn and be associated with some great guys and to teach some wonderful athletes.”