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High school football: Resourceful approach by Gainesville coach helps land spot in Corky Kell Classic
Gainesville football
Gainesville High running back Naim Cheeks carries the ball against Discovery during the 2020 game at City Park Stadium.

Heath Webb never passes on a great opportunity. 

Gainesville High’s football coach also thinks outside the box, which is a great benefit for a program on an upswing in the state’s largest classification.

His big announcement this week was one that got everyone on their feet. 

On Monday, the Red Elephants’ coach was able to let the cat out of the bag that they would be playing in the 2021 Corky Kell Classic — one of the nation’s oldest kickoff tournaments — on Aug. 20 against Johns Creek at City Park Stadium. 

Routinely, the Corky Kell draws the biggest programs from across the state to play in games spread out over an entire weekend.

“I’m extremely honored and I know all our players are thrilled to get picked for the Corky Kell Classic,” Webb said. “This is the nation’s best kickoff event for high school football.”

However, the invitation was not as simple as picking up a phone call and being asked to play. 

In fact, Webb said he had to sit on the big news for about a week once the contract was in place. 

The only other person at Gainesville who knew was athletics director Adam Lindsay, Webb noted. 

Gainesville was looking at a Week 1 void in the upcoming schedule when Johns Creek was able to void the prior two-year contract. The two schools were set to meet in 2020, but due to a delay to the season for Fulton County schools, Johns Creek was not able to play.

That also meant that the two-year agreement was no longer applicable. 

Webb said that Johns Creek wanted out so it could pursue a game where it could bring in ticket revenue. 

So the series was halted. 

Then, Webb thought back to a prior podcast appearance last fall when he spoke with IJ Rosebnberg, founder of Score Atlanta, and Corky Kell Classic organizer Dave Hunter. 

At that time, the Red Elephants’ coach was putting it out there that he would love for his program to eventually get the chance to play in the Corky Kell. 

The feeling was mutual. 

So, when Johns Creek pulled out, Webb went back to those same two men, explaining his program’s situation. 

After going over several possibilities, Gainesville was offered the spot for the 5:30 p.m. game that afternoon. 

Webb went back to Johns Creek and explained the new offer, which the school happily accepted, with the ability of both schools able to draw ticket revenue and television exposure. 

Webb went over the agreement with his football players in their weight training period to open the day Monday. 

He said players are ecstatic for the opportunity. 

“We love the opportunity to show off City Park Stadium to the people watching on television,” Webb said.