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PREP FOOTBALL: Rome opens season in familiar place with clash vs. Marietta

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Rome High running back Jamious Griffin (6) finds room to run through the middle of New Manchester's defense during the first quarter of a preseason scrimmage Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, at Barron Stadium. / Jeremy Stewart

A season that began with a much-anticipated matchup at Barron Stadium against a Cobb County team with a high-profile quarterback ended with not a single blemish on one of the most dominating seasons by any team in the history of Georgia high school football.

The quest is reignited tonight, a little more than a year removed from the Wolves’ 33-21 defeat of Harrison and QB Justin Fields, as Rome takes on Marietta in the second game of the MetroPCS Corky Kell Classic, welcoming the Blue Devils and another top prospect QB to its home turf.

Rome comes in as the unanimous top-ranked team in Class 5A among most polls, having retained its core group of offensive playmakers that was the key behind the Wolves setting the Georgia High School Football Association record for the most points scored in a single season.

Leading that charge is quarterback Knox Kadum, who enters his fourth season as the starting signal-caller for the Wolves and its most prolific offensive weapon. The dual-threat QB was 114-of-160 passing for 2,046 yards and 23 touchdowns with only three interceptions last season and rushed for more than 700 yards each of the past two seasons.

Kadum has plenty of help, however, as fellow seniors Jamious Griffin and Xavier Roberts-Donaldson join him on offense with their own impressive stats.

Griffin, Rome’s top returning running back, rushed for 1,276 yards last season and 1,443 the year before and scored 60 touchdowns. He is committed to North Carolina State. Roberts-Donaldson caught 11 TD receptions a year ago and had three last Friday in the scrimmage against New Manchester.

Harrison Bailey enters tonight’s game as sixth-ranked Marietta’s starting quarterback for the third year in a row and the consensus No. 2 pro-style QB in the class of 2020.

Bailey was 126-of-210 passing for 1,885 yards and 21 touchdowns in only six games last season after getting injured early in the season and returning in the playoffs, where the Blue Devils would fall to eventual 7A state champion North Gwinnett in the quarterfinals.

His favorite target last season was Ramel Keyton, a four-star senior committed to Tennessee who finished 2017 with 1,298 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

Both teams come in with new faces on the line, but experienced players to help anchor them in the early going.

Rome’s offensive line is led by rising junior Aiden Gaines at center and 6-foot-4, 285-pound right tackle Quantavious Leslie. Marietta’s front line includes two-way starter B.J. Ojulari, who is ranked among the top 10 defensive end prospects in the nation among juniors.

Today’s games at Barron Stadium, presented by Harbin Clinic, get started at 5:30 p.m. with Calhoun facing Ridgeland. Gates open at 4 p.m. and tickets will be on sale for $12 at the Barron Stadium ticket booth today from noon to 3 p.m. All tickets bought at the gate will be $17.