Corky Kell Classic

Crowds fill Barron Stadium during a past Corky Kell Classic. This year’s Classic will kick off in the first week of September.

Health guidelines and the logistics of hosting two high school football games on the same evening have pushed Cedartown and Rockmart out of being a part of the well-known Corky Kell Classic to start the season.

Negotiations between Rome City Schools and the Corky Kell Classic stalled this past week, leading to the revelation Friday that the event has decided to not include Rome in this year’s lineup.

The move means Polk County’s two high school football programs will not make their debut in the 28-year-old tradition. Cedartown was set to play Carrollton and Rockmart was going to play Rome on Sept. 4 at Barron Stadium as part of the four-day series of games.

“We expressed our concerns (Friday) and they decided to move to a different location with different teams,” Rome City Schools Superintendent Lou Byars said.

The city school system manages the event and Byars said they were having trouble figuring out how to follow health recommendations for holding the event at one location.

“Since we’re the manager of the stadium it would be our responsibility to manage the event,” Byars said.

For instance, Byars said the recommendations called for sanitizing the entire stadium between games — something he felt wasn’t plausible. Ticket holders purchase a ticket for the entire two game event and getting everyone out of the stadium and then back in, or even switching fans from one side to another wasn’t going to work.

Rockmart head football coach Biff Parson said Saturday that they are still planning to play Rome to open the regular season on Sept. 4 at Barron Stadium. He declined to comment on not playing as part of the Corky Kell Classic.

Cedartown head football coach Jamie Abrams said Saturday that it is still likely they will play Carrollton on Sept. 4 but would be working out the details this week.

Cedartown has four home games scheduled for this season, while Carrollton has five, including three in a row beginning with Week 3.

The Gwinnett Daily Post reported that the five games originally planned for Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta were shifted to Mill Creek High School.

The stadium, which hosts the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, is required to use NFL guidelines for operation and sanitizing, the Post reported. The process was deemed too expensive by Corky Kell organizers, who already pay a large sum to rent the stadium.

“There were a lot of logistical issues but it really came down to keeping people safe,” Byars said. “Mercedes-Benz (Stadium) said they can’t do it. If Mercedes-Benz can’t do it, how can we?”

Rome High head football coach John Reid said in a phone interview after research, discussion with local medical professionals and rising numbers of COVID cases in the surrounding counties, a doubleheader was not feasible.

“We thought, under the right circumstances with masks, hand sanitizer and all that, we could pull off a single game and the Corky Kell people just didn’t think that was a good idea,” Reid said. “They wanted to stay with the doubleheader.”

Rome, along with Carrollton, Cedartown and Rockmart, were scheduled to play at Barron Stadium as part of the event, which usually kicks off high school football season in Georgia.

“We hate it, I really do. I don’t want it to have a negative impact on the city,” Byars said. “But it’s really a health issue.”

Polk Standard Journal Editor Jeremy Stewart contributed to this report.

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