The 2019 Corky Kell Classic is upon us and the Mays Raiders are the lone football club from Atlanta Public Schools seeking their first victory in the classic. Last year, the Raiders appeared in the Classic for the first time ever but fell to a tough Norcross Blue Devils team. They finished the 2018 season at 6-5 with a 20-12 loss in the opening round of the playoffs to the Lanier Longhorns.

The Raiders are more motivated for a great season. By great season, a shot at the 5-A championship title is the only option. For Raiders head coach Niketa Battle, he knows what it will take for the Raiders to get to Georgia State Stadium in May.

“We just have to stay consistent,” said Battle. “Keep on grinding everyday and doing what we’re supposed to do [which is] getting better as a coaching staff. If we do those things, the sky’s the limit.”

This year, they face an opponent in 5-A powerhouse, Kell Longhorns. The Longhorns finished 8-3 last season with an opening playoff loss to the Buford Wolves. They come into this season looking to avenge last season’s disappointment with a win.

In this year’s Classic against the known powerhouse, the Raiders are confident in their ability to compete and earn their first victory in the Classic. To earn that victory, Battle knows his defense has to show up and is confident that they will.

“[Our] defense is lights out,” Battle said. “Last year we were young. Now they are returning starters, are bigger, faster and stronger [plus] they are relentless. They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder and I love it.”

Along with the defense, the Raiders have a weapon in tight end/defensive end Jaquari Wiggles.

The senior Georgia Tech commit is the leader for this team and is great on both sides of the ball. This makes Wiggles a huge asset for this team but he knows what he is up against battling the Longhorns.

“One thing that jumps out to me [on film] is that they’re disciplined,” said Wiggles. “They’re coachable and disciplined, we can not make any mistakes or they will capitalize on what we do.”

The Tucker Tigers are no stranger to the Corky Kell Classic or Class 6-A. Not long ago in 2016, the Tigers made a state title appearance but lost to the Valdosta Wildcats.

The Tigers appeared in the Corky Kell Classic last year but lost to a talented Buford Wolves team 40-14 to open their season. Their season ended last year with a loss to 6-A State Runner up, Northside Eagles ending their season at 7-4.

This year, the Tigers play against a Gwinnett County powerhouse in the Archer Tigers. The Tigers were also in the Classic last year but lost to eventual 7-A champion Milton Eagles. They finished the 2018 season 10-2 with a loss to 7-A runner-up Colquitt County Packers.

Tigers head coach Bryan Lamar sees this game as an opportunity and ceiling potential for his young players.

“Coming into this game, we will see improvement and find out who we are against a really good football team who is going to challenge us,” Lamar said. 

“I don’t really know how good we are going to be early because we have a lot of new guys. 

For Tucker and coach Lamar, he knows who is up against and knows Archer is nothing new to Georgia football.

“They are well coached and they have great players who are going to play extremely hard,” said Lamar. 

“They’re definitely going to test us on both sides of the ball and special teams. Coach Dyer does a great job preparing his guys.”

On the offensive side of the ball, everything for Tucker begins and ends with Isaiah Dunson.

The Florida State commit stood out last year in the Corky Kell Classic with six catches for 121 yards to ignite the Tigers offense. 

For Lamar, he is proud of Dunson and his leadership and knows what he brings to the team.

“He is a great athlete and leader,” said Lamar. “He epitomizes what we look for in our players. on and off the field. He works extremely hard and does everything he can to help the team win; we are glad to have him on our team.”

Meanwhile for the Archer Tigers, they have not forgotten about their heartbreaking loss to the Packers in the 7-A semifinals last season.

This season, they look to avenge not only their loss in the classic last season but their chance for their first state title.

Tigers head coach Andy Dyer understands the expectations of playing in the big games such as the Corky Kell Classic and is using last season as a learning experience.

“We expect our team to be well prepared and ready to play hard,” said Dyer. 

“We talked about it every year about getting the big games and the margin for error is little. It’s all about eliminating mistakes whether its on offense, defense or special teams to make sure we put ourselves in a good position.”

Dyer has done his research and knows that Tucker is not to be taken lightly.

“Defensively they’re always going to be good, prepared and physical,” Dyer said. “Offensively they want to control the football and play with physicality and run the Wing-T., we just have to read our keys and do a great job of being where we’re supposed to be.”

The Tigers are known for their offense and they return their starting quarterback Carter Peevy.

Peevy finished last season with a 66.5% completion rate, 27 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Dyer has the utmost confidence in Peevy and is glad to have him back on the field one last time.

“I’m really looking forward to watching him play, said Dyer. “He’s a coach on the field for us and is an absolute honor for me to be able to coach.”

In this year’s classic, Archer is one of six Gwinnett teams invited to play in the Corky Kell. Out of all six teams, two are staying in county to play at Coolray Field while the other four will play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The two teams playing at Coolray Field are Archer and Buford. Buford will face Milton at 8:30 to cap off Friday night.

The four teams playing at Mercedes-Benz include Norcross, North Gwinnett, Brookwood and Mill Creek. Norcross battles Walton at 11:45 A.M., or twenty minutes after Kell vs. Mays concludes. 

North Gwinnett faces Colquitt County who will be playing under new head coach Justin Rogers. The next two games will feature Brookwood and McEachern with Mill Creek and East Coweta capping off the night.

Gwinnett County also features top state talent which includes Carter Peevy, Josh Downs, Barrett Carter, Sean Hill, Elijah Turner to name a few.

Mays vs. Kell will kickoff Saturday, August 24 at 9 a.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tucker vs. Archer will kickoff Friday, August 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.

Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at

Photo of the Mays Raiders in Corky Kell action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Photo by: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice

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