29 earn invites to Georgia Elite Classic All-Star games in December

The Georgia Elite Classic Showcase held at Lassiter High School on July 15 awarded 29 of its attendees with invitations to compete in the Georgia Elite Classic’s lineup of all-star games this upcoming December. The players participating spanned from the Class of 2019 through the Class of 2024 and showcase coordinator, Georgia Elite Classic Director of Player Personnel and 247Sports analyst Rusty Mansell managed the evaluation process.

“That was a lot more than I imagined,” said Mansell of the turnout. “It was one of the times where I not only had to scout a wide variety of prospects, but from rising seventh graders up to rising seniors. Usually I am focusing on two or three classes of kids, but this was a lot more.”

This offseason’s earlier showcase, which took place at Grady High School on April 21, handed out 17 invitations, but it started at the Class of 2019 and stopped at the Class of 2021. The announcement that this year’s Georgia Elite Classic would be adding a 7th and 8th grade game came three weeks after the Grady showcase and opened the door for the six middle schoolers that earned invites this weekend: Running back Harlem Diamond, Defensive end Justin Benton and defensive tackle Gatlin Hancock earned spots in the 8th grade game and running back Caden Williams and quarterbacks Reece Fountain and DeMarius Hines earned spots in the 7th grade game.

Pace Academy running back Donavan Johnson clocked a 4.8 in the 40 and was one of the 10 Class of 2022 prospects invited to play in this year’s freshman game. Xian Cowher, who played for the Freshman American Team at last year’s Georgia Elite Classic, ran an impressive 4.65 and got invited back to be featured in this year’s sophomore game. Hillgrove cornerback Noah Abrams was also invited to play in the sophomore game and posted a 4.61. North Paulding running back Noah Alleyne ran a 4.64 and was one of the seven that earned a spot in the junior game.

“Let’s be honest,” Mansell said. “These kids are paining for an opportunity to be showcased and we are providing that platform in a bigtime event and a bigtime arena. We are not just taking anybody for this event. The state of Georgia is producing, over multiple all-star games, we feel like we will put our rosters up against anyone. It’s so deep in the state of Georgia. I don’t think we have to hype it. We are going to work hard to get the invites to the right people and we look forward to it.”


Lassiter Showcase Invitees

Class of 2020

OG TJ Parks (Cherokee)

QB/OLB Niko Vangarelli (Mt. Paran)

QB Blaine McAllister (Lovett)

DE Christopher Stinson (Cedar Grove)

RB Noah Alleyne (North Paulding)

WR Jacob Jarrett (Roswell)

WR Rasheed Singleton (Jonesboro)

Class of 2021

DE Jamaal Jones (McEachern)

WR Xian Cowher (Augusta Prep)

DE Nicholas Claypole (Lanier)

CB Noah Abrams (Hillgrove)

LB Carter Kubow (North Paulding)

WR Briley Stilwell (North Paulding)

Class of 2022

LB Carlos Cervantes (Marietta)

OT Ryan Purves (Walton)

QB Ray Morrison (Northwest Whitfield)

WR D’Angelo Ezell (Grayson)

LB Gage Leonard (Christian Heritage)

RB Donavan Johnson (Pace Academy)

RB Sean Downer (Grayson)

LB Easton Burgess (Grayson)

WR Kamrin Brunson (Grayson)

QB Sebastian Irons (Dacula)

Class of 2023

RB Harlem Diamond (Cedartown)

DE Justin Benton (Veterans)

DT Gatlin Hancock (Darlington)

Class of 2024

RB Caden Williams (Calhoun)

QB Reece Fountain (Rome)

QB DeMarius Hines (Westlake)


2018 Georgia Elite Classic Game Schedule

At McEachern

Thursday, Dec. 27

7th Grade Elite 4 p.m.

8th Grade Elite 6 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 28

Senior Elite 10 a.m.

Brain Bowl 12:30 p.m.

Junior Elite 3 p.m.

Freshman Elite 5:30 p.m.

Sophomore Elite 8 p.m.

Georgia Elite Classic to hand out all-star invites Sunday at Lassiter Showcase


The Georgia Elite Classic Showcase this Sunday, July 15, is the next chance for the state’s rising football stars to qualify for one of seven All-Star Games this December. The Showcase will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lassiter High School and will feature a variety of drills and head-to-head competition.

Rusty Mansell, 247Sports’ Georgia recruiting analyst and head of the Georgia Elite Classic selection committee, will lead a staff of evaluators consisting of high school coaches from the Metro Atlanta area.

Rising sixth- through 12th-graders are eligible to participate in the Showcase. Registration is $60 on GeorgiaEliteClassic.com before the event, and walk-up registration the morning of the Showcase is $70.

The athletes in the Showcase will be put through a dynamic warmup before they are divided into groups and rotated through the following testing stations for measurements: 40-yard dash, agility shuttle and broad jump. The players will get two attempts at each station. After those stations are completed, players will be divided once again and evaluated on their performance in position-specific drills, 1-on-1s and 2-on-2s. Immediately following the Showcase, the results of each player’s performance will go out to more than 250 colleges and their coaching staffs. The Showcase will record verified heights and weights as well as 40-yard-dash and drill times.

After April’s Showcase, 17 participants were extended invitations to play in one of the seven Georgia Elite Classic all-star games at McEachern High School on Dec. 27 and 28.

The five-game high school lineup on Friday, Dec. 28, will continue to feature talented underclassmen, nationally ranked juniors and the best uncommitted seniors. Last December’s games were closely contested, with the Sophomore and Senior games both being decided by three points. Rising senior Zach Calzada, a quarterback from Lanier, recently committed to Texas A&M after gaining exposure in the Junior game, in which he passed for 229 yards.

The Georgia Elite Classic will also hold its inaugural Brain Bowl in between the Junior and Senior all-star games. Player nominations for Team Einstein and Team Hawking opened on March 1 at GeorgiaEliteClassic.com; in order to be eligible, players must provide proof of a 3.0 GPA, a combined three-part SAT score of at least 1500 and an ACT score of at least 22. Coaches from such conferences as the Ivy League, Patriot League and New England Small College Athletic Conference have been drawn to the Peach State for years, and small conferences featuring top-notch schools are expected to work closely throughout the year with the Georgia Elite Classic.

The 2018 Georgia Elite Classic will feature a seventh-grade game for the first time. The event featured an eighth-grade game in its first two years, 2013 and 2014, and will renew that event this December. The inaugural eighth-grade matchup featured many recent signees, as Florida freshman Emory Jones of Heard County and UNC freshman Cade Fortin of North Gwinnett quarterbacked the teams. Center Warren Ericson (North Gwinnett, Georgia), wide receiver Zach Williams (Johns Creek, Arizona) and cornerback Kyler McMichael (Greater Atlanta Christian, Clemson) were just a few of the stars to play in the 2013 game. The 2014 eighth-grade game featured current senior stars such as outside linebacker Owen Pappoe (Grayson, Auburn commit), wide receiver Dominick Blaylock (Walton, UGA) and running back Steele Chambers (Blessed Trinity, Ohio State), to name a few. The middle school games will be played Thursday evening, Dec. 27.

For more information, go to GeorgiaEliteClassic.com and don’t forget to sign up for Sunday’s showcase at Lassiter High School by Clicking Here.

Next Georgia Elite Classic Showcase set for July 15 at Lassiter

The upcoming Georgia Elite Classic Showcase provides an opportunity for football players to show off their skills, get recognition and possibly earn an invitation to one of the seven Georgia Elite Classic games in December. The Showcase, which will take place at Lassiter High School on Sunday, July 15 at 9 a.m., will be overseen by Rusty Mansell, 24/7 Sports’ Georgia recruiting analyst. All rising seventh through 12th graders are eligible to enter the showcase.

“Rusty is one of the best there is,” said Score Atlanta’s Craig Sager II, who’s been involved in organizing the events since the inaugural year. “It gives him a good look at the guys of the Class of 2020 or 2021 that he really hasn’t gotten a chance to look at before. With him being on the Georgia Elite Classic selection committee, it’s good exposure. In the last showcase (in April), there were more than several guys, even double-digits, that got an invitation to play in the all-star games this year, so that motivates.”

One of the players in last season’s Georgia Elite Classic Sophomore Game was a late selection, Lanier’s Zach Calzada, who recently committed to Texas A&M. According to Mansell, the Showcase, practices and the All-Star game helped kick-start Calzada’s recruiting profile.

“You take somebody like Zach Calzada,” Mansell said. “I knew a little bit about him, I had seen him before. But I didn’t get a chance to see him as much as I probably should have. But after seeing him in the practices (at the Georgia Elite Classic) and then seeing him in those games, I knew then he was a lot better than myself, and the recruiting industry, was giving him credit for.

“He was a late addition and we were trying to decide, and we made a great call, a lucky call. I remember standing by some guys who are pretty respected in the industry that day who were like, ‘whoa, who is this guy? He is good.’ So it didn’t take long after that for his recruitment to jumpstart.”

The athletes in the Showcase will be put through a dynamic warmup before they are divided into groups and rotated through the following testing stations for measurements: 40-yard dash, agility shuttle and broad jump. The players will get two attempts at each station.

After all the measurable tests are completed, players will be divided once again and evaluated on their performance in position-specific drills, 1-on-1s and 2-on-2s. Immediately following the Showcase, the results of each player’s performance will go out to more than 250 colleges and their coaching staffs.

“It’s a good change, in terms of the overall environment,” said Sager, who walked on at the University of Georgia and played high school football at Walton. “They’re pretty competitive. You’re doing drills against other guys in the same position and you’re trying to show off your speed and skills in a different way. It’s different than a normal football practice. You don’t have your own coaches there, of course. But it’s just a raw version of the drills. The pressure is kind of taken off and you’re just out there competing. It’s more like a personal approach.”

In terms of recruiting exposure, the information and opportunities provided by the Georgia Elite Classic Showcase are crucial for the success of getting recognized by colleges across the nation.

“It’s a good measuring stick to see them in person and actually watch them compete up close,” said Mansell. “Sometimes during games, you have 22 other kids and you’re trying to focus on everybody. But when we get a setting like this, we can really focus on individual athletes and get a good look at you. Plus, we will have verified heights and weights, and verified 40-yard-dash times. That is so important.”

The staff, which will be hand-selected by Mansell, will be composed of high school coaches from around the Atlanta area.

“I have guys that work my MVP camps,” Mansell said. “I have guys that I trust, and they know how to run a camp. But I trust them to evaluate. … I can’t see every [player] all day long. So, as the position group coaches, I trust them to evaluate. That’s the kind of staff I’ll put together that day, but it will be high school coaches from the Atlanta area.”

The Showcase check-in time is 9 a.m., and players can register before the event for $60. For walk-ups the day of the event, the price to register is $85. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Georgia Elite Classic adds 7th and 8th Grade Games for 7-game lineup

The 2018 Georgia Elite Classic is adding seventh and eighth grade all-star games for its first-ever seven-game lineup that will be played on Dec. 27-28 at McEachern’s Cantrell Stadium. Starting with the seventh grade game at 5 p.m. and the eighth grade game at 7 p.m. on Dec. 27th, the Classic will conclude on the 28th with freshman, sophomore, junior and senior games and the first-ever Brain Bowl.

The event featured an eighth grade game in its inaugural year (2013), and those rosters, which represented a seemingly distant Class of 2018, proved to be packed with some of the most talented players in the country. Florida signee Emory Jones of Heard County and UNC signee Cade Fortin of North Gwinnett led the quarterbacks in the matchup, while big names like center Warren Ericson (North Gwinnett, Georgia); wide receiver Zach Williams (Johns Creek, Arizona); cornerback Kyler McMichael (Greater Atlanta Christian, Clemson); Jamarcus Chatman (Rome, FSU); Realus George (Pace Academy, Miami) and RB Rico Frye (Cartersville, Bowling Green) also formed the rosters.

In 2014, the eighth grade game featured the Class of 2019, which will be representing the state as seniors in the fall this upcoming season. This impressive group included:

OLB Owen Pappoe (Grayson, Auburn); WR Dominick Blaylock (Walton, UGA); RB Steele Chambers (Blessed Trinity, Ohio State); TE Ryland Goede (Kennesaw Mountain, UGA); OC Jakai Clark (Grayson, Auburn); CB Kenyatta Watson II (Grayson, Texas); LS Quentin Skinner (Buford, LSU); 4-stars SDE Justin Eboigbe (Forest Park), S Jaylen McCollough (Hillgrove) and 3-stars CB DJ Turner (North Gwinnett), OG Riley Simonds (Buford), QB Ross Malmgram (North Paulding), RB Paris Brown Jr. (McEachern), ATH Isiah Grant (North Paulding), CB Emmanuel Jenkings (Sequoyah), DL Derrick McClendon (Tucker), ATH Malik Washington (Parkview)

This will be a great opportunity to get an early look at some of the state’s most promising young stars and the same selection committees and coach-based nominations will be used to determine the rosters in each of the games. John Woods will head up the middle school selection committee with help from Rusty Mansell of 247Sports. Not only will these middle schoolers get a chance to play in the game, but they will get to bump shoulders with those participating in the five other games from check-in on Dec. 26, until the final game. Players will report on Dec. 26 at 9 a.m. and will have two practices that day and then one more practice the morning of the 27th before the games kick off. All players will receive a jersey and the official Georgia Elite Classic Player Pack.


At McEachern High School

Thursday, Dec. 27

Seventh Grade Game 5 p.m.

Eighth Grade Game 7 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 28

Freshman Game 9:30 a.m.

Sophomore Game 12 p.m.

Junior Game 2:30 p.m.

Brain Bowl 5 p.m.

Senior Game 7:30 p.m.

1st GA Elite Classic Showcase of offseason yields 17 invites to December games

The Georgia Elite Classic Showcase at Grady High School on April 21 handed out 17 invitations to compete in the sixth annual all-star classic this December. Players from the Class of 2019 through the Class of 2022 were eligible to attend this weekend’s showcase (the first of the 2018 offseason) and took advantage of the opportunity in a big way.

Leading the camp evaluations was showcase coordinator, Georgia Elite Classic Director of Player Personnel and 247Sports analyst Rusty Mansell, along with the Classic’s selection and review committee.

“It was amazing to see the amount of talent that came to Grady High School, especially on both the offensive and defensive lines,’’ said I.J. Rosenberg, the president of Score Atlanta, the company that owns the Georgia Elite Classic. “We also had the benefit of Chuck Smith working with the defensive line and Chris Hixson with the quarterbacks. I don’t think Rusty intended on giving out as many invitations as we did, but the group was that impressive.’’

Howard cornerback Lorenzo Hargrove was one of the five players from the Class of 2019 to earn a spot in this year’s senior game after a strong showing at the event; Hargrove recorded three interceptions for the Huskies last fall. Brookwood teammates Sean Hill and Aidan Perkins, both starters up front for Broncos as sophomores last year, were both invited to play in this year’s Junior game.

Roswell kicker and quarterback Caden Long was one of five Class of 2021 players who were invited to play in the sophomore game. Long threw a touchdown and handled kicking duties in last year’s Freshman game, helping the American team defeat the Nationals 17-15.

Here’s a look at all the invitees:

Class of 2019

RB Gerald Daniels (Houston County)

CB Lorenzo Hargrove (Howard)

CB Antonio Prioleau (North Atlanta)

QB Cade Scott (Paulding County)

S Kyle Terry (Mt. Paran)

Class of 2020

OT Sean Hill (Brookwood)

OC Aidan Perkins (Brookwood)

DT Wesley Horton (North Atlanta)

DT Connor Johnston (Sequoyah)

DE Jordan Mitchell (Trinity Christian)

S Caleb Williamson (Harrison)

WR Christian Hodgins (Sequoyah)

Class of 2021

WR Jaylen Ellis (Paulding County)

QB Caden Long (Roswell)

G Kaleb Lowe (Harris County)

CB William Mitchell III (Parkview)

DE Bryce Stanfield (Harrison)

2017 Georgia Elite Classic provided exciting showcase for top talent

With 366 of the best high school players in the state playing in four All-Star games, the 2017 Georgia Elite Classic was a huge success. On Tuesday, the dates for this year were announced. The players will report to McEachern High School on Wednesday, Dec. 26, and the Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior games will be played beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 28.

Two weeks ago, the participating student-athletes arrived at the McEachern High School gymnasium early in the afternoon on Tuesday, Dec. 26 in preparation for the day’s events. All classes, freshman through senior, were divided into their respective teams and sent to the practice fields where they underwent an array of drills designed by 51 coaches.

Wednesday’s itinerary featured a similar schedule, with players arriving to practice after fueling up on breakfast at the Marriott Northwest at Galleria. However, it wasn’t all rigorous practices and drills. After a full day of team practices and exercises, all participants went to Stars and Strikes Bowling Center and Arcade in Hiram for an exciting night before the big games. With two days of practice and a night of fun under their belts, the players and coaches were ready to face off against one another.

After a long week filled with cloudy weather, Thursday featured nothing but sunny skies. The cold proved to be no problem as the Freshman National and Freshman American teams took the field Thursday morning. Each team’s halftime break showcased a kicking competition between the competing teams’ kickers. Starting from the 30-yard line, as each kicker successfully made his kick, the ball was moved back 5 yards until only one kicker remained, earning the winner’s plaque. At the close of each game, a commemorative plaque was given to each winning team and their MVPs.

The games proved to be action-packed and full of top talent. The Freshman National team topped the Americans 31-21 as Valdosta wide receiver Aalah Brown caught two touchdown passes. The Sophomore Nationals jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead after capitalizing on American team turnovers, but they ended up just barely hanging on in an exciting 38-35 finish. Cedartown running back Kobe Pryor was named Sophomore MVP with two rushing touchdowns and 93 yards on the ground. In the Junior game, the Nationals held off the Americans 31-19 behind two passing touchdowns by Arabia Mountain quarterback Bryson Williams, the game’s MVP. And the Seniors capped off the night with a 17-14 win thanks to the go-ahead 33-yard touchdown run from quarterback Trevor Thomas of Pepperell, who also passed for a touchdown on his way to MVP honors.

The games featured, for the first time ever, coaching challenges and video replay review using McEachern’s large stadium videoboard. Freshman National team head coach Rico Zachery (Villa Rica) threw the very first challenge flag in Georgia high school football history, prompting the first of several replay reviews throughout the four games.

The week of action at the Georgia Elite Classic drew considerable media coverage before, during and after the event, including writeups from the Marietta Daily Journal and Forsyth County News. The Classic displayed some of the state’s best talents at all positions, and the high-quality games filled with big plays were a true testament to the players who played in them.

Senior American team downs Nationals 17-14 after deciding Trevor Thomas TD run

In the final game of the 2017 Georgia Elite Classic, the Senior American team defeated the National team 17-14. The Americans scored a touchdown on an 11-play, 69-yard drive that took 5:40 and spanned the end of the third quarter and four minutes into the fourth. But it took a long run from the American quarterback for the go-ahead score.

Quarterback Trevor Thomas (Pepperell) put the Americans ahead for good with a 33-yard touchdown run, and the defense held on the Nationals’ two possessions in the fourth quarter. On the Nationals’ final possession, the team was backed up on a 10-yard sack of quarterback Garrett Bass (Woodstock) and a false-start penalty, making for a fourth-and-23 from its own 27. A 20-yard run from Bass on fourth down left the Nationals short with 42 seconds left, and the Americans ran out the clock from there.

The Americans struck on the first play from scrimmage, as quarterback J.T. Rice (Thomasville) hit wide receiver Julius Cobbs (Warner Robins) for a 70-yard touchdown to give the team a 7-0 lead.

The Nationals tied the game at 7-7 in the second quarter after Trevon Wofford (Cedartown) found Steven Peterson (Harrison) for a 26-yard touchdown just a minute into the period (the Senior game featured 13-minute quarters). They then took the lead 14-7 after Jalyn Shelton (Ridgeland) rushed 6 yards for a touchdown with 4:11 left in the half. The Americans drive on the next possession was thwarted by a Wesley Wells (Lumpkin County) interception near midfield, and the halftime score remained 14-7 in favor of the National team.

The National team hit a 34-yard field goal at the 5:06 mark of the third quarter to make it 14-10, setting up its game-winning touchdown.

Thomas, who was named the game’s MVP, rushed for 106 yards for the Americans with a touchdown, and Rice was 7-of-11 passing for 142 yards and his scoring pass on the first play. Cobbs finished with 94 yards receiving.

Wofford led the Nationals in rushing with 55 yards and was 4-of-6 passing for 34 yards and a score. Peterson led his team in receiving with four catches for 50 yards and his score.

Junior Americans hold off Nationals for 31-19 win behind Williams’ MVP performance

The Junior Americans took the third game of the day with a 31-19 win over the Nationals, as quarterback Bryson Williams (Arabia Mountain) led his team to victory with touchdown passes to Buchi Nwaubi (Lassiter) and Lawrence Shadd (Harrison) on his way to MVP honors.

The American team took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter after a 54-yard field goal by Hayden Hairston (Milton) and a 12-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jacob Camp.

The Nationals got on the board with a 35-yard Jack Breedlove (Maynard Jackson) field goal, his first of two in the game. But with 4:08 left in the half, Williams hit Nwaubi for a 10-yard touchdown pass to take a commanding 17-3 lead at halftime.

The Nationals made it a 17-10 game in the third quarter after a highlight-reel, juggling catch by Christian Sims (Norcross) on a Bo Lawson pass (Dooly County). Sims (Norcross) was wide open over the middle and tipped the ball into the air several times while still on the run before hauling it in and striding to the end zone. But Williams hit Shadd for a 9-yard touchdown to push the American lead to 24-10.

A 37-yard field goal by Breedlove gave the Nationals 13 points with 4:52 left in the third quarter, and the Nationals would mount a comeback try in the fourth quarter. Keyon Brooks’ (Kennesaw Mountain) touchdown drew the Nationals to within five points, after a failed 2-point conversion, with 7:54 left in the game. But the American team mounted a drive to answer that score, and Nate Hope (Johns Creek) rushed for a 39-yard touchdown to make it 31-19 with 4:04 to play.

The Nationals final drive took them inside the 10 on a first-and-goal with just over a minute to play, but a Zach Calzada (Lanier) touchdown pass was negated after he was penalized for an illegal forward pass beyond the line of scrimmage. A Calzada scramble on fourth down with 48 seconds left came up short of the end zone, and the Americans took over on downs and ran out the clock for the 12-point win.

Williams finished 10-of-16 for 167 yards and two touchdowns to go with 27 yards rushing. Calzada finished with 229 yards passing on 23 completions in 33 attempts. Sims had a game-high 115 yards receiving on four receptions, and the Nationals’ Ridge Polk (Cambridge) had 10 receptions for 73 yards. Shadd led the Americans with 68 yards receiving. Justin Talley (Kell) had two sacks for the Nationals.

Nationals jump out to big lead, finish strong for win in Sophomores game

The Nationals defeated the Americans 38-35 in the Georgia Elite Classic Sophomore game. The Nationals jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead in the first quarter to take control of the game early. The Americans stormed back at the end of the first half and early in the second, but the Nationals hung on thanks to second-half touchdowns by Jordan Simmons (Jordan Simmons) and Dexter Williams (Mt. de Sales).

The first quarter was a rough one for the the Americans, as they fumbled on three consecutive possessions to start the game and the Nationals capitalized each time. Kobe Pryor (Cedartown) rushed in from 3 yards and 49 yards in the first frame, and Bryson Irby (Alexander) had a 39-yard TD rush as well.

The American team clawed back into the game to trail by just three points in the third quarter after an 18-yard run by Eli Kohl (Brookwood). But Simmons broke off a 49-yard run to give the Nationals a 31-21 lead at the 4:53 mark of the quarter that they would take into the final period.

The fourth quarter saw Deondre Jackson (Stephenson) score from 4 yards out to bring the Americans to within three points again at 31-28. The Nationals answered with a 1-yard Williams keeper to push the lead back to 10 points with 2:31 left. The Americans made it interesting with 1:16 left with a halfback pass for a score. Jackson took a pitch from Griffin Brewster (Darlington) and threw a strike to Kobe Stewart (Marietta) to once again make it a field-goal deficit. But the Nationals were able to bleed the clock nearly all the way down and the game ended with the Americans in possession of the ball on their end of the field.

Pryor was named the game’s MVP as he rushed for 93 yards on 12 carries. Simmons added 75 yards on seven carries, and Irby had 67 on six attempts. The game was dominated by the run, as the Nationals rushed for 287 yards to the Americans’ 269. Williams also rushed for 50 yards from the QB position and passed for 81 (5-of-8). Brock Travelstead (North Paulding) hit a 39-yard field goal in the second quarter.

For the Americans, Donovan Anthony (Washington-Wilkes) led his team with 49 rushing yards, Zaire Thornton (Grady) rushed for 46 yards and Mecose Todd (Villa Rica) had 39. Jackson had 35 yards to go with three TD runs and scoring pass. Brewster passed for 143 yards on 9-of-17 passing, with a long of 40. DJ Hart (Norcross) had 86 of those receiving yards on four catches.

Vandagriff, Brown lead Nationals over Americans in Freshman game

In the first game of the 2017 Georgia Elite Classic at Cantrell Stadium at McEachern, the National freshman team defeated the American freshman team 31-21. 

Aalah Brown, a wide receiver from Valdosta, was the star for the Nationals with two touchdowns. The first came on a 42-yard strike from quarterback Brock Vandagriff (Prince Avenue) with 5:09 left in the first quarter. Brown’s second touchdown, which came at the 13:52 mark of the third quarter, was a result of an observation from the coaching staff.

“The coaches saw them fighting on the bubble (screen),” said Brown. “So they told me to fake like I was going to block and then go on a deep route.”

And that’s exactly what he did. Quarterback Trevor Lovett (North Cobb) released a perfect pass that found Brown wide open at the 20-yard line, and he trotted in. Crucial adjustments led to a defensive touchdown as well for the Nationals. This time, however, it wasn’t a coach who noticed something but a defensive back who saw a receiver line up his feet in a particular way.

“They were doing a hitch [route] the whole time so I was used to him being in a certain stance,” said Lowndes DB Jaheim James. “But I noticed that (the receiver’s) foot was turned a little bit differently than it would be.”

That little bit of information was all James needed, and as soon as the pass was released, he broke on the ball, intercepted it and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown.

“So I read it really quick and broke on the ball and I caught it,” James said. “When he was getting the ball on the play, he would turn his foot really quick. But when he wasn’t, he wouldn’t and [the route] would be really straight. He had it really turned and I was really prepared for it.”

The American team was led by Carlos Del Rio (McEachern) who scored on a 1-yard run which was confirmed by the first-ever replay conducted in a high school football game. Del Rio lunged to the left side of the line and looked like he might have crossed the goal line. After replay on the video board, the play stood to pull the game to 7-7 with 8:28 left in the first quarter. Del Rio also completed a pass to Devin Smith (Metter) for a 70-yard touchdown. Caden Long (Roswell) found Julian Nixon (Centennial) with less than two minutes left in the game to pull the Americans to the final tally, 31-21. 

For the Nationals, Vandagriff finished the game 6-for-11 passing for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Lovett was 6-for-8 passing for 163 yards and one touchdown. Jamal Haynes (Grayson) caught five passes for 99 yards and one touchdown. Brown finished with two receptions for 81 yards and two scores.

Some of the players in the Georgia Elite Classic are used to this atmosphere, but for the freshmen, this is a new experience which will stay with them for a lifetime.

“This was my first Classic like this, and it is a good experience,” Brown said. “I got to meet people from all over the state. I am used to schools and kids from South Georgia but to meet these kids from North Georgia schools and other teams, I made a lot of friends, especially from my team. Over the last two days we came together like a real team.”