ROSWELL – South Forsyth got some much-needed work in Friday against some of the top competition in the state at the Corky Kell Classic 7 on 7 Invitational, held at Blessed Trinity in Roswell.
As part of “Pod C,” the War Eagles played games against Creekview, Gainesville, Grayson and North Gwinnett. Endurance was tested as players, donning training shorts and helmets, had to quickly move from game to game on a blisteringly hot turf field.
South, competing in the invitational for the first time, finished 1-2-1 and was tabbed as a No. 20 seed (out of 30 teams) for bracket play, which occurred later Friday after severe weather interfered with the regularly-scheduled tournament times.
But in the morning the War Eagles didn't go without fighting—they fell a point short of defeating Grayson, unarguably the state's top team with all-state quarterback Chase Brice and transfers in Jamyest Williams (previously at Archer), Kurt Taylor (previously at Newton) and others.
The War Eagles' defense made noise, making multiple three-and-out stops throughout the competition—something difficult to accomplish in a passing camp with no pass rush or interior linemen.
Offensively, the tournament was another opportunity for Davis Shanley, South's returning starter at quarterback and the FCN's 2015-16 Offensive Player of the Year, to gel with new skills position players after the departures of receivers Jalen Camp and Ronnie Chambliss, running back Sam Outlaw and tight end Cameron Kline.
Shanley mixed impressive rope-passes with questionable throws throughout the day, but overall showcased why he's a quarterback that has drawn interest from over a dozen colleges.
“The deal for us right now is replacing talent on both sides of the ball, and they're coming along well,” South head coach Jeff Arnette said. “We're playing a lot of guys in these things right now so we can figure out who we want where. A lot of guys need a lot of reps because we've got a lot of holes to fill.”
On coming within a play or two of knocking off a team as talented as Grayson, Arnette shrugged as if he knew his guys could run with them all along.
“We beat them last week once, we played them twice,” Arnette said. “It's really not real football until you put the big boys up there, but it gives us a chance to get better for sure.”
Cal Morris stood out for South as a potential receiving option—he spent last season as Shanley's backup at quarterback.
“I think (Cal) Morris was outstanding in the last two games we played today,” Arnette said. “He really gives us another option out wide, which we need.”
Another candidate to fill the receiving void is Jaylen Pearson, a rising junior who received playing time last year, and an experienced returner in rising senior Guy Morra.
South fell to North Gwinnett 24-16, then used its defense to edge Gainesville 12-11. Gainesville ended up qualifying as the top seed going into bracket play. Grayson beat the War Eagles 17-16 before Creekview tied South, 20-20.
South will throw on the pads and hit the field at the Corky Kell Classic on Friday, Aug. 19 against Hillgrove at McEachern High School. The War Eagles earned a spot in the prestigious and expanding event after finishing 11-2 last season and winning the Region 6-AAAAAA championship.