GHSF Daily is expanding its Four Questions feature this season beyond head coaches to other voices in high school football. Today's interviewee is former Dave Hunter, executive director of the Corky Kell Classic. Hunter is a former head coach and athletics director at Brookwood. He was inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in June.
Dave Hunter, executive director of the Corky Kell Classic
1. What is your most memorable Corky Kell game? "I would answer that twofold, No. 1 as a coach. In 1996, Brookwood played Valdosta, and that was a game that had a little bit of everything. It was the first time that the two schools had ever faced, so it was going to be a great test for our football team. Valdosta went on to win it 31-28 on the last play of the game. Our kids were so upset with the result, but from a coach's point of view, it proved that our kids could play with anybody. And sure enough, we advanced to the state championship that season and had to go down to Valdosta to play it, and we beat them handily that time (45-24) for the state title. As a spectator, I'd say the game that stands out the most is actually the game that was played in the Georgia Dome right before our game against Valdosta in '96. It was Thomas County Central against Marist. Thomas County Central scored with no time left and was down one point (31-30) and went for two. They threw a halfback pass, and Joe Burns was the one who threw it for the win. That was an exciting game between two great teams that actually ended up meeting in the semifinals at the Dome later that season, where Thomas County Central scored another one-point victory (22-21). There have been a whole lot of great games over the years with Corky Kell, but that one stood out in my mind, just because of the dramatic finish."
2. What would Corky Kell think if he were alive to see what the event has become? "Well, before Corky Kell passed away in 1994, he literally pulled me in and looked me in the eye and made me promise to him that I would make sure that we kept this thing going. So, I know that it would mean a great deal to him to see this event now, getting ready to celebrate its 27th year. Whenever I get frustrated, which is usually in the two weeks leading up the games, I try to think about it. I try to sit back and think, 'How would Corky handle this?" He was always such a gentleman, much calmer than I am. But since my problem last year, open heart surgery, I really tried to step back and take a better look at it all. And in doing so, I think he would be proud of us. His family seems to be pleased with the progress of the event. I do very often think of him and instrumentally getting this started. I have a picture I enjoy looking back at of Corky, Jimmy Dorsey, Ralph Williams along with my principal and me from 1992, up in the upper deck of the Georgia Dome when it was being constructed, all wearing hardhats. I think he'd just want to caution us to never forget that it is high school football and it's pure, and this event is what the sport ought to be about."
3. How are teams chosen for the event? "It's a multifold deal. No. 1, you've got to have been successful, in fact, very successful, for more than one or two years. You've got to have sustainability to ensure the competition side of the games. Secondly, you've got to be able to handle the financial end of it, because we have ticket guarantees for the schools participating. Selling tickets can be difficult for smaller schools. You don't want to show partiality to the larger schools, but from the financial end, there is a threshold that must be kept and always considered. There are always exceptions to this. There could be a team at the bottom of Class 6A or 7A with a great following, and we would discuss this. There could also be a great team that doesn't have that great fan support. We would discuss it with them ahead a time as well. In the past, we have had the teams that will just pay for the tickets they didn't sell, but that's not good and it's not what we want; it's not good for the game, it's not good for the sponsors. The coaches, the players, the sponsors and the venues all want to see people in the seats, so that is what we aim for."
4. What are you most excited about for this year's event? "Well, we've got great matchups, but I'm excited to be going to Northwest Georgia for the first time. And the city of Rome has really rolled out the red carpet and they are very excited about it. There we'll have two-time defending state champion Rome going up against Marietta, who has one of the best gun-slingers in the nation with junior quarterback Harrison Bailey. We also have Class AAA defending champion Calhoun going up against Ridgeland, which is an excellent up-and-coming program. Then at Georgia State, Milton looks like they are on the way up, playing Archer, whose head coach Andy Dyer is a former player of mine and like a son to me. That ought to be a heck of a game, and what can you say about Buford vs. Tucker. Goodness gracious that is a great matchup. And with Georgia State, what a venue too! Then Saturday, we'll be at Mercedes-Benz and that's got to be a highlight to all those kids, every one of them. The players, the bands, the cheerleaders and all the fans. It will be the least expensive way to get into Mercedes-Benz Stadium and watch some outstanding football."
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