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.