Freshmen: Americans 29, Nationals 28

Walton quarterback Zak Rozsman threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Zach Johansen (North Gwinnett) with 4:40 left in the game, and found his Raiders teammate Cade Thompson on the ensuing game-winning 2-point attempt to lift the Americans past the Nationals 29-28.

Rozsman shook off a pair of first half interceptions and finished the game 16-of-23 passing for 214 yards and three touchdowns—earning himself MVP honors. The Nationals opened up a 7-0 lead in the first quarter after a 2-yard run by Jamie Felix (Camden County) and would not trail until Rozsman’s 2-point attempt in the final minutes. LaShawn Lester put the Americans on the board with a 3-yard touchdown run with 7:24 left in the first half, but Parkview’s Champ Baker intercepted Rozsman and returned it 24 yards for a Nationals touchdown minutes later.

Rozsman answered with a 6-play, 70-yard scoring drive that was capped with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Malachi Kelley (Hart County) on the final play of the half, but a missed PAT kept the Americans down 14-13 at the break.

Felix took the first play of the second half 70 yards for a touchdown to increase the Nationals’ lead to 21-13, but Rozsman found Johansen with 2:01 left in the third for a 20-yard touchdown pass, and hit Thompson for the first of their two critical post-touchdown conversions to even it up 21-21.

Houston County running back Simeon Askew capped a scoring drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter to put the Nationals up 28-21. 

The Nationals outgained the Americans 384-327 in total yardage and accounted for 261 rushing yards to the Americans’ 113. Askew led all rushers with 132 yards off his six carries, and Felix turned in an efficient 97 yards and two touchdowns off his nine carries.

Defensively, McEachern’s Latrell Bullard posted a game-high six solo tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks. Vito Perry (Alpharetta) hauled in Rozsman’s other interception, and Nathan Vail (Harrison) recovered a fumble that was returned 52 yards to set up Lester’s first half touchdown run.   

Junior: Nationals 31, Americans 17

The Nationals built a 24-7 halftime lead and held off the Americans to take the sixth annual Junior Elite game. North Atlanta quarterback Wiley Hartley was named MVP and got the Nationals on the board with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Ricky White (Wheeler) on the second play from scrimmage.

The Americans answered with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Donovan Anthony (Washington-Wilkes) to tight end Beau DeBerry (Grayson) to even it 7-7, and cap off an 11-play, 70-yard drive. The Nationals regained the lead with 1:11 to go in the first quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run by Nnamdi Orjioke (Lassiter).

Denmark quarterback Ben Whitlock stepped in and tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jamontae Jean (Therrell) that grew the Nationals’ lead to 21-7,and Evan Fuller (Bremen) tacked on a 23-yard field goal before the half. Fuller also won the halftime’s kicking competition with a 45-yarder.

American kicker Ezra King (Eastside) booted a 25-yard field goal to cap a 9-play, 62-yard scoring drive early in the third quarter, but Hartley struck again with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Devin Ellison (Cherokee) to put the Nationals ahead 31-10 heading into the final frame.

Stockbridge quarterback Jevon McDonald scrambled in the game’s final points from 20 yards out to make it 31-17. The Americans outgained the Nationals 342-to-317 in total yards. McDonald finished 11-of-25 passing for 123 yards and an interception, and took four carries for 41 yards to go with his rushing score.

Hartley finished 7-of-12 passing for 161 yards and his two touchdowns. There were a combined 19 different players that registered at least one reception in the game. Brookwood offensive lineman Sean Hill also picked up 15 receiving yards for the Nationals after taking a hook and ladder following a reception by North Cobb’s Kendall Drake on a designed call.

Defensively, Michaiah Bell (Harrison) posted 3.0 tackles for loss and four solo tackles. Roland Jackson (Norcross), Patrick Dahlen (Cherokee) and KD Johnson (Thomasville) each had interceptions. Brookwood linebacker Tony Ward had a game-high six solo tackles to lead the Nationals and Peach County safety Talique Allen led the Americans with five. 

Brain Bowl: Nationals 31, Americans 21

The Nationals jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead and held off the Americans to win the Georgia Elite Classic’s first-ever Brain Bowl. Junior Alexander Wilson (Allatoona) ran in a 16-yard touchdown to give the Nationals a 7-0 lead and sophomore Tre Henry (Greater Atlanta Christian) capped off a 6-play drive with a 16-yard touchdown run later in the quarter. Jack Breedlove added a 31-yard field goal in the opening minutes of the second quarter to increase the Nationals’ lead to 17-0.

The Americans answered with a 54-yard touchdown run by senior Isaiah Jackson (Frederica Academy), but Wilson rushed in his second score of the half to give the Nationals their 24-7 halftime edge.

The teams went scoreless in the third quarter until its explosive final seconds. American quarterback Robert Matthew Peters (Cairo) tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Register (Riverwood) with four seconds left. The Nationals took over at their own 30-yard line following the kickoff, and Henry took a screen pass from Matthew McCravy (Hillgrove) down the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown to close the quarter. Henry finished with 109 yards from scrimmage to go with his two touchdowns and was named the MVP following the game.

In the fourth quarter, Peters completed a 70-yard touchdown pass to Konata Mumpfield (Dacula) for the game’s final points. The American team outgained the Nationals 348-to-297 in total yardage, but lost three of four fumbles and the turnover margin 6-2. Westminster sophomore Connor Weselman won the halftime kicking competition with a 47-yarder. Blessed Trinity defensive lineman Grayson Gilder led all tacklers with seven and included three tackles for loss.

Senior: Nationals 26, Americans 0

The National Team racked up 202 of its 241 yards of offense on the ground and limited the Americans to just 86 total yards in a thorough 26-0 victory. Quarterback CJ Ogbonna (Wheeler) started the scoring in the opening minute of the second quarter with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Dallas (Bremen).

The American team answered with a solid drive that took them into National territory, but defensive end Justin Talley (Kell) sacked Garrison Hand (Villa Rica) on fourth down to stall the drive. Talley finished the game with 3.5 sacks and four solo tackles.

The third quarter saw the American running game take off as the trio of Marcuis Fulks (Hiram), Tavion Jackson (Campbell) and Daimar Ivey (Temple) accounted for 100 yards off a combined 12 carries in the frame. Fulks found the end zone on a 38-yard touchdown run with 1:38 left in the quarter to grow the lead to 13-0.

In the fourth quarter, Jackson added 17-yard touchdown run and Ivey capped the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown with 1:04 left. Fulks finished with 82 yards off 8 carries and was named Co-MVP with Jackson, who took his 13 carries for 78 yards.  

8th Grade: Americans 20, Nationals 6

American team running back Joshua Baker capped off an 11-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to grow a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The score held until a pivotal play in the second quarter that was eventually overturned by the first successful coach’s challenge in event history. National team quarterback Abe Stowe was sacked by Nick Persiano and was originally ruled down. American head coach Rusty Reed threw the challenge flag, however, and video review offered conclusively that the ball had come out. William Reed came up with the recovered fumble and the American team took over at the National 8-yard line. Ben Guthrie punched in a 1-yard touchdown run three plays later and the lead grew to 12-0 with 3:25 left in the half.

Future Walton quarterback Jeremy Hecklinski found Raiders teammate Hunter Teal for a 26-yard National touchdown less than two minutes later, but the failed PAT kept the deficit at 12-6. The American team took over at their own 30-yard line and closed the half with a 6-play, 70-yard drive capped off with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Guthrie to Kaleb Cost as time expired.

Defense dominated the second half as neither team threatened to score. The American team picked up just 2 yards off three total plays in the entire third quarter, but their own defensive prowess kept the National team from gaining momentum. The Nationals finished the game with just 77 total yards of offense to the American team’s 140.

7th Grade: Americans 40, Nationals 20

Da’Twon Rouse used an incredible performance to lift the American team past the Nationals 40-20 in the Georgia Elite Classic’s first-ever Seventh Grade game. Rouse—a running back and safety middle schooler in the Pebblebrook district—opened the scoring with a 43-yard touchdown run. Rouse returned to the end zone with a 1-yard touchdown run and converted the 2-point try to put the American team up 14-0 with 4:34 still left in the first quarter.

The National Team answered with Prentiss Noland touchdown passes to Debron Gatling (67 yards) and Carlos Penn (13) to tie it at 14-14 with 7:07 left in the half (Luke Hubert kicked the PATs). Rouse put the Americans back in front with a 9-yard touchdown run with 3:33 on the clock. After trading possessions, Rouse intercepted Noland at the National 40-yard line and returned it 35 yards to set up a 5-yard touchdown run with just 22 seconds left before the break. The American team’s 1-of-4 success rate on 2-point conversions kept their lead at 26-14.

A lightning delay interrupted the closing minutes of the third quarter, and Rouse added a 67-yard touchdown when the action resumed to put the Americans up 32-14 entering the fourth quarter.

CJ London added a 15-yard touchdown run and lineman Paul Harrington snuck in the 2-point try to extend the lead to 40-14. National running back Omarion Tucker provided the final points on a 7-yard run as time expired.

The National Team finished with a 26:25 to 17:35 advantage in time of possession and the American team narrowly outgained them 308-297 in total yardage. Rouse’s performance included 225 rushing yards off 12 carries to go with his five touchdown runs. Defensively, he added a game-high 12.5 total tackles (10 solo) to go with his interception. Tucker led the National team with 172 rushing yards off 26 carries.

Georgia Elite Classic adds record-breaking passer to senior game

North Paulding quarterback Ross Malmgren will participate in the Georgia Elite Classic senior game at McEachern on Dec. 28. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect started every game for the Wolfpack over the last three seasons and led the program to its seventh-straight playoff appearance this past fall out of the talented Region 3-AAAAAAA.

Malmgren’s senior season concluded with more than 2,700-plus passing yards, 29 touchdowns and just three interceptions, earning him the recognition of Paulding County TD Club Player of the Year. He finished his varsity career with 7,356 passing yards and 70 touchdown passes—both of which are school and county records.

Presbyterian College, Tusculum, Valdosta State and the University of Virginia’s College at Wise are the latest programs to offer Malmgren, who is expecting to make his official announcement in January or February.

“The next couple months will probably be the most important ones for me,” said Malmgren. “I didn’t focus on the recruiting side as much during the season, so it’s picked up a lot since the season ended.”

Recruitment may have taken a backseat during his season, but years of results have set up Malmgren nicely for the culmination of his recruiting journey. In 2014, Malmgren took center stage in the first-ever Georgia Elite 8th Grade game. In the first half, he connected with Ryan Goede for a 19-yard touchdown, and found Dominick Blaylock for a 37-yard touchdown on a 4th down and 17 call. His team ended up scoring a 26-0 victory, and Malmgren teamed up with the two UGA signees (Goede, Blaylock) on a 7-on-7 all-star team the following year.

“The Elite Junior Classic game in eighth grade for sure helped me,” said Malmgren. “There were a lot of studs in that game that prepared me for joining varsity my freshman year. My freshman year, I joined a 7-on-7 team with a lot of those guys that was called Team Adidas. That really helped me too, especially with the speed of the game, and that was probably the most loaded team I’ve ever been on with Owen Pappoe and Dom [Blaylock], Goede and a bunch of guys.”

Malmgren played in the Rising Seniors All-Star Game last December and was on the winning side again (31-14). His performance included a clutch 15-yard touchdown pass with just six seconds left in the first half to Tennessee signee and Lovejoy receiver Jerrod Means.

Competing in all-star game settings has taught Malmgren the importance of taking a confidence approach to compensate for the shortage of practice time.

“All-star games can be much tougher for offense,” explained Malmgren. “For defenses, you just need to be an athlete and make plays. Offense has to have timing to function and that takes practice. You don’t have a lot of time to prepare for any all-star game, so you just have to try to get that timing worked out as fast as possible and try to be as confident as you can be going into the game.”

2018 Georgia Elite Classic Schedule
At McEachern High School

Thursday, Dec. 27
Seventh Grade Elite Classic 4 p.m.
Eighth Grade Elite Classic 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 28
Senior Elite Classic 10 a.m.
Brain Bowl Classic 12:30 p.m.
Junior Elite Classic 3 p.m.
Freshman Elite Classic 5:30 p.m.
Sophomore Elite Classic 8 p.m.

Expanded lineup, new wave of features awaits ever-growing Georgia Elite Classic

The 2018 Georgia Elite Classic will showcase a seven-game, two-day all-star lineup that will be played at McEachern High School Dec. 27-28. There will be games exclusive to each grade 7-12 and a Brain Bowl—comprised of highly academically-qualified players from the Class of 2019-21 to round out the seven.

When the Georgia Elite Classic launched six years ago, it set out on a mission to shine a spotlight on the same combination of on-the-field and off-the-field talent that draws college coaches from around the country to recruit from the state of Georgia.

New features were introduced to the games last year, including a halftime kicking contest, instant replay, coaching challenges and the use of 15-minute quarters. The result was an unprecedented look at Georgia’s top stars. This year, NFL’s timing rules will be used and there will be a two-minute warning near the end of each half. The head coach for each team will also be allowed one challenge per half, and the instant replay will have access to three separate camera angles on one of the biggest high school videoboards in the country.

The rosters for this year’s games have been split and are available at  with the intent to make the opposing sides as balanced and competitive as possible. Already, more than 620 players and over 200 different Georgia High Schools will be represented in this year’s all-star marathon as well as 60 coaches for the high schoolers and another 20 for the two middle school games. The games will be available on web at and there will also be a Gametracker with live stats.

The senior game will have 6-foot-6, 295-pound Ridgeland offensive tackle Frederick Norman Jr. starring in the trenches. Denmark’s Ben Whitlock and Mt. Paran’s Niko Vangarelli will quarterback against a secondary in the junior game that features Peach County cornerback Daelan Smith and safeties Kobe Towns and Talique Allen.

McEachern starting quarterback Carlos Del Rio headlines the sophomore game and Blessed Trinity’s Banks Atkins will be under center for the freshman game.  

Blessed Trinity junior defensive lineman Grayson Gilder and Parkview senior linebacker Zach Hamilton are among the Brain Bowl participants.

2018 Georgia Elite Classic Schedule

At McEachern

Thursday, Dec. 27

Seventh Grade Elite Classic 4 p.m.

Eighth Grade Elite Classic 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 28

Senior Elite Classic 10 a.m.

Brain Bowl Classic 12:30 p.m.

Junior Elite Classic 3 p.m.

Freshman Elite Classic   5:30 p.m.

Sophomore Elite Classic 8 p.m.

Junior Elite Classic Showcase Headlines Busy Offseason

Photo By: Natalie Pierce, The Play Book


Football season is right around the corner as team camps, individual workouts and more have all begun. The Junior Elite Classic Showcase highlights some of the best camps around the state as all players are invited to see how they stack up against some of the Georgia’s best. Measurements and testing kick off the event before players are divided into groups for their specific position drills.

Three showcases are held in April starting on the 10th in Warner Robins, the 17th at Walton High School and the 24th at Devaul Henderson Park in Richmond Hill. The showcases are spread throughout the spring and across the state giving each location the proper exposure. Gwinnett County’s event will be held on May 1 with the location still to be determined and on Dec. 27 it will be Cobb County’s time to shine again as McEachern holds the final showcase of the year.

Turnouts were in the hundreds for each event last year as players put on performances that were taped and sent off to college scouts across the south. Countless attendees have used the Junior Elite Showcases as a springboard for their college careers.

From D-I to D-III, all levels of talent have hit the gridiron as National Preps coordinates the on-field activities. The Junior Elite Classic review committee as well as recruiting services from around the Southeast have their eyes locked on the performances of rising freshmen through the Class of 2017. Over 160 colleges and coaches will receive the results after completion of each showcase.


Tested will be:

40 yard dash: 2 attempts

5-10-5 Agility Shuttle: 2 attempts

Broad Jump: 2 attempts

Position specific drills

7 on 7’s

1 on 1’s

Registration is $60 and can be completed online at Rain or shine, the show must go on no matter the conditions, just like in actual football games, testing the mental strength of athletes when faced against adverse conditions.

If you think that you or someone you know has what it takes to make it to the next level, tell them to come test their skills and see if they really are Elite.

Sophomore Elite Classic: Americans 38, Nationals 3

Photo courtesy of Jeff Martin

The stars aligned at Walter Cantrell Stadium at McEachern High School for the first ever Sophomore all-star game a part of the Georgia Junior Sophomore Elite Classic. The American Team led by head coach Kevin Whitley (Stockbridge) met the National Team guided by Mark Fleetwood (Peachtree Ridge). With scouts littered across the stadium, the Peach State’s best sophomores put on a show, but it was the American Team shining the brightest to secure a dominant 38-3 victory.

The Americans outgained the Nationals 419 to 86 in total yardage and led from the opening drive. Buford’s Anthony Grant was named the Offensive MVP thanks to some tough running and big-play drives. He bulldozed his way to 165 yards on 22 carries and scored on a 1-yard run to open the game at the 7:35 mark of the first quarter. Less than four minutes later, Christopher Rodriguez of Ola plowed in an 8-yard run in which National defenders were draped all over him.

Up 14-0 entering the second quarter, the Americans were in control. The National Team added a 28-yard field goal from Norcross’ Jake Camarda. The American Team quickly answered back using a 5-play, 79-yard drive capped by Rodriguez’s second score of the day. He finished with 46 yards on nine carries and the two touchdowns.

Linebacker Zakoby McClain of Valdosta garnered Defensive MVP honors as a key cog of the American defense. He finished with a team-high six tackles, four solo and two for loss. The Wildcat also forced and recovered a fumble. It was one of three forced fumbles on the day created by the hard-hitting defense. Freshman Nolan Smith of Calvary Day scored on a fumble recovery from 30 yards out to make it 28-3 before Mitchell Fineran of Brunswick connected on a 47-yard field goal to give the American Team a commanding 31-3 lead at the half.

Woodstock quarterback Garrett Bass hit Centennial’s Blane Mason on a 14-yard touchdown pass to finish the scoring with 7:53 remaining in the third. Bass rotated in with North Gwinnett’s Cade Fortin. Bass finished 5-of-8 for 91 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Fortin, who started, went 4-of-10 with 82 yards and an interception.

The National Team was under duress all game long, passing for just 50 yards and being sacked seven times. JJ Peterson (Colquitt County) and Dar’Jarri Coleman (South Atlanta) both corralled two sacks apiece. While Kierron Smith (Fitzgerald) and Nolan Smith both tallied one.

The Nationals were led on offense by Taylor County’s Lyn J Dixon. The shifty back finished with 50 yards on 10 rushes. Defensively, freshman JD Bertrand of Blessed Trinity led all defenders with eight total tackles and an interception that was returned for 38 yards.