The annual kickoff event to the Georgia high school football season, which began in 1992, is expanding from five to seven games — and from one to two days — next fall.
The first two games will be played at McEachern’s Walter Cantrell Stadium on Friday, Aug. 22 and the other five will take place the following day at the event’s customary home, the Georgia Dome.
McEachern, one of the founding teams at the Corky Kell Classic, will be part of the second day of games, kicking off at 11:30 a.m. against newcomer Mill Creek.
“Mill Creek has been a solid and up-and-coming program,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “They’re very well-coached and we’ve watched them on tape a couple of times against some of the teams that we’ve faced. I obviously haven’t had any time to really study them, but I know they’ll be a big challenge for us I’m sure.”
The late-morning start time is well ahead of the Indians’ previous kickoffs at the Classic. Over the past few seasons, they have typically participated in the final game of the day, which didn’t start until after 8 p.m.
The earlier start is a welcome change for Hockman.
“The early game is what it is,” he said. “We’ll have to play it whether it’s in the morning or in the evening. But it will be good to get out there and get going instead of sitting around all day waiting. I think that’s a plus.”
Kell — named after Corky Kell, the late coach and administrator who is the Classic’s namesake — will play Carrollton at 8:45 a.m. Saturday. Carrollton is in the event for the first time since 1998.
As the Longhorns make their fifth consecutive appearance at the Classic, another frequent competitor from Cobb County will be missing. Walton won’t be playing after appearing each of the last six seasons and 11 times overall since 1996.
The early-afternoon game will pit Brookwood — the event’s co-founder with McEachern — against Valdosta, which is back for the first time since 1997.
The two night games remain fluid based on Tucker’s fate in Friday’s Class AAAAA state championship game. Should Tucker win the title, it would face the winner of the Class AAAAAA championship between Norcross and North Gwinnett. Should Tucker lose, it would play Norcross and North Gwinnett would play Colquitt County.
The first day of Corky Kell games at McEachern will feature Creekview-North Paulding at 5:30 p.m. and Sandy Creek-Archer at 8:30 p.m. It will mark the first time any of the schools have participated in the Corky Kell Classic.
McEachern, which hosted the Corky Kell Classic in 1995 and 1997, recently upgraded its facilities to include a new videoboard and improved artificial turf.
“It’s state-of-the-art over there,” said Dave Hunter, executive director of the Classic. “Jimmy Dorsey is the (athletic director), and he has been a part of the Corky Kell Classic as well, so we just thought it was a great fit. They are great hosts, so we just felt like this was an ideal place.”
Hunter, who coached Brookwood in 10 Corky Kell games from 1992-2001, hopes to make the Classic a weekend event before it moves to the new Falcons stadium in 2017.
“We are getting the new stadium in 2017,” he said. “We have so many good teams out there. We wanted to expand our brand a little bit and then try to work our way into the new stadium with a weekend instead of just the one-day event.
“Now, we have seven games instead of five and 14 teams instead of 10. Of course, the premier games will still be at the Georgia Dome, but this is a way to get more teams involved.”
All seven games will be televised by CSS, the regional cable sports network, and broadcast on 92.9 FM radio.
Marietta Daily Journal sports writer Emily Horos contributed to this report.