The McEachern Indians traveled northeast last night to take on the North Gwinnett Bulldogs in the fourth game of the 2020 Corky Kell Classic. It was Cobb County’s first football game of a season that has been characterized by delays and cancellations due to COVID-19.
This game was much anticipated for several reasons. First, it was a welcome indication that Cobb football has returned. Second, it featured two of the highest-ranked 7A teams in the state. Third, it was a rematch of McEachern’s final game last season, when the Bulldogs ended the Indians’ championship quest in the quarterfinal game at Cantrell Stadium.
Although this season’s team looks very different than last year’s, Head Coach Franklin Stephens was optimistic. While losing senior QB Carlos Del-Rio and WR Dacari Collins to transfer and several other key players to graduation, Coach Stephens isn’t one to worry about what might have been. He got to work with the team he had, one that included junior QB Bryce Archie directing the offense and LB Ese Dubre leading the defense.
This was McEachern’s 29th appearance in the Corky Kell Classic. They are one of only two teams—Brookwood is the other—that have played in all of them since the Classic began in 1992. During that time the Classic has come to signal the beginning of football in Georgia each season. It is an honor that teams take seriously.
The game kickoff was delayed about 40 minutes due to a 4-OT game between Brookwood and Dacula that took place before the Indians and Bulldogs could take the field at Tom Robinson Memorial Stadium in Suwanee. The delayed start seemed to have an effect on both teams with very little offensive production and no scoring in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs changed that with the first play of the second quarter though, with four-star Clemson-commit Barrett Carter rushing around the right side for a 8-yard TD. McEachern looked poised to answer the score, with Bryce Archie moving his offense down the field with quick tosses to the right sideline. But a couple of penalties stalled their momentum and Archie threw an interception that turned into a 98-yard pick-6 for the Bulldog defense. With seven minutes left the second quarter, North Gwinnett was up, 0-13.
Thanks to a 65-yard kickoff return from Sutton Smith, the Indians found themselves with a short field and a mere 22 seconds later, Mekhi Crawley crossed into the Bulldog end zone after a strong ten-yard run to end the shutout. The first half ended with the score remaining at 7-13.
The second half was all Bulldogs, with one TD being scored in the third and two in the fourth. Conditioning was an obvious factor for both teams, but McEachern’s defense spent so much time on the field in the second half that they were exhausted.
North Gwinnett started pounding the run game in the fourth quarter, adding to the physical toll on the Indian defensive unit. A pick-6 by Barrett Carter put the game out of reach and it ended with the Bulldogs taking their fifth consecutive victory over the Indians since 2011, 7-35.
The Indians come home to take on the Grayson Rams at Cantrell Stadium next Friday. With Carlos Del-Rio as the new Grayson QB, it will be a homecoming of sorts for the senior Florida-commit. Don’t miss it.