By Brian Jones
Photo courtesy of Rob Saye
The 2014 high school football season has come to an end with seven teams winning GHSA state titles at the Georgia Dome two short weeks ago. Before the state title defenses begin and a new class of seniors takes the Georgia gridiron next season, the 2014 football action will conclude at McEachern High School with the second annual Elite Junior Classic.
The second installment of the all-star game will let the biggest stars from the Class of 2016 go head-to-head and give us a glimpse into the season to come. There will be a North and a South team that have been split up by the region the player comes from. Regions 1-4 are placed on the South team and any player that plays on a team that belongs to Regions 5-8 will be on the North Squad.
ARMORY OF TALENT….
The North team will be led by Norcross head coach Keith Maloof who has won the Class AAAAA state title two of the last the last three years. Maloof has won 150 games in his career and he comes from a rich tradition of coaching in his family. His father, George Maloof, won a state title at St. Pius, and his brother, Kevin Maloof was the head coach at Dacula from 1991-2010.
Maloof will have a very experienced coaching staff working with him. Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis leads the North assistant coaches. Other coaches on the staff include Ron Gartrell (Stephenson), Terry Crowder (Creekview) and Derek Cook (Kell).
In the North trenches will be Archer’s Kobe Smith, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle committed to N.C. State, will line up in the North trenches. The South Team’s defensive line will be manned by McEachern’s Julian Rochester, the No. 1 ranked prospect in the state. Rochester, a 6-foot-5.5, 280-pound defensive tackle will represent McEachern with his Indians’ teammate, running back Sam Jackson.
On the South team, Colquitt County wide receiver Kiel Pollard comes off a dramatic 28-24 victory over Archer in the Class AAAAAA state championship. Pollard hauled in seven receptions for 59 yards in the victory.
Defensive back Marquez Callaway has jumped into the top 5 Peach State prospects for the Class of 2016 on several recruiting boards and will represent Warner Robins on the South Team. West Hall standout Tyquan Statham will take snaps at defensive back for the North Team and will face South Team quarterback Logan Byrd and a deep group of receivers. Byrd is a 6-foot-3 signal caller from Veterans and is committed to Virginia Tech.
Collins Hill defensive end Tomon Fox and Upson-Lee offensive tackle David Marshall skyrocketed in the recruiting ranks this past season and like all the competing players in the Elite Junior Classic, can continue climbing the ranks with a strong showing Monday, Dec. 29
Ware County’s Franklin Stephens is the South’s head coach. Stephens has won two state titles at Tucker and led Lamar County to a state title appearance in 2013. Like Maloof, Stephens will have a very talented coaching staff working with him. Lee County head coach Dean Fabrizio will be the offensive coordinator while Spalding head coach Nick Davis will be the defensive coordinator. Other notable coaches on the roster are Tom Fallaw (Cairo) and Welton Coffee (Camden County).
MORE THAN A GAME…
With this being the second even Elite Junior Classic, many may think that this is just an all-star game for the best juniors in the state. That’s one of the reasons for the event, but this is also a way for fans to get a look ahead at the 2015 season.
Having Rochester in the Classic will give the state a chance to watch its No. 1 prospect line up against the best competition. Early commits like Byrd (Virginia Tech) give fans of their future schools a chance to see them play before they arrive on campus.
The event also gives the players a chance to learn from some of the best coaches in the state with Maloof and Stephens. Both coaches have built winning programs and mentored all-state selections and future college stars.
The Elite Junior Classic is also a way to celebrate Georgia high school football and our newest class of leaders. The players participating in the Elite Junior Classic have already become leaders on their teams and will continue to be looked up to next season as they try to get to the Georgia Dome in December. The coaches and players are all competitors and bragging rights will be on the line for the North and the South but this is a game that celebrates the talent in our backyard. When a player dresses out for the Elite Junior Classic it is more than another football game. It is a unique opportunity to step on the field and compete in the spotlight with the biggest names in the state. Lastly, it is an opportunity for each player to represent his school and community in the Peach State’s newest postseason tradition.