That will be evident with today’s inaugural Georgia Elite Junior Classic, which will bring the state’s top juniors to McEachern’s Walter Cantrell Stadium.
The contest, which features North and South rosters consisting of 35 players each, will include 10 players from Cobb County. Rosters were based on the Georgia High School Association’s region alignment, with players from Regions 1-4 on the South team, and Regions 5-8 on the North.
Walton teammates Taquar Stewart and Davis Pidgeon will join Allatoona’s Josh Bettistea and Pope’s Max Kemper on the North team, while McEachern’s Taj Griffin, Chandler Jones, Chuma Edoga and T.J. Rahming will be part of a South squad that includes Marietta teammates Ian Shannon and KirVonte Benson.
Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo will helm the North squad, with a staff that also includes five other head coaches from the metro-Atlanta area, as well as longtime Walton assistant Tripp Allen.
Berrien coach Ed Pilcher will take the reins of the South team and will be assisted by a group that includes McEachern’s Kyle Hockman and Ed Dudley, the former Walton coach now at Ware County.
“There are a lot of really talented and really savvy players playing in this game,” Hidalgo said. “They know what to do, which makes preparing for this game really easy. Fans will see a lot of good players that’ll come out and compete.”
Hidalgo wasn’t just excited about his players and the game. He was also excited about working with other talented head coaches.
“They’re a bunch of really good guys to be involved with,” he said. “We’re able to pick each other’s brains for about 20 to 30 minutes and exchange ideas on football. We learn a lot from each other and it’s been really fun.”
Players weren’t only chosen for their prowess on the field, but also for their accomplishments in the classroom and integrity on and off the field.
A committee of high school administrators, coaches and recruiting sources chose the first round of participants, while additional invitations were given out to other juniors who weren’t part of the initial pool of players. Forty-five schools and players from each of the state’s six classifications are represented in today’s game.
“There are so many all-star games popping up, and the organizers are going straight to the kids and eliminating coaches,” said McEachern athletic director Jimmy Dorsey, who helped organize the event.
Dorsey’s grown used to these sorts of all-star events. The Georgia Elite Junior Classic is the third game in one week at McEachern, following last week’s Georgia Northwest All-Star Bowl and Cobb All-Star Senior Bowl.
“The process started as a recommendation of the coaches instead of a recruiting service,” Dorsey said of the even for juniors. “They know their kids better than anybody. Most of the games are going towards senior events, but at that point, most of the kids know (what college they are going to).
“A junior event made good sense to get the kids to showcase their talents to college recruiters. So, if we’re having an all-star game, what’s the best format to do that? That was to involve the coaches and get quality young men participating.”
Sponsors played a major role in getting the event off the ground, according to Dorsey, whose involvement in the Corky Kell Classic, and McEachern’s state-of-the-art facilities also made Cantrell Stadium an ideal location to host the inaugural game.
Tickets are $10 for today’s game, which will be broadcast live on CSS.