LOGANVILLE - As the clock dwindled toward zero in Friday night's game, the Grayson reserves broke into celebration along the sideline by dancing to the "Cha Cha Slide" as it played over the stadium's speakers during a timeout.
When the crowd stomped twice along with the lyrics, it couldn't help but think about how the Rams had taken two big steps forward in the Class AAAAA playoffs with their 17-7 second-round win over East Paulding on a chilly Britt-Moody field.
The win extended the Rams perfect record to 12-0 and put Grayson in the quarterfinals for the second straight year. Next week's opponent is defending state champion Lowndes, which beat Bradwell Institute 62-21. Coaches from both teams will meet today at 9 a.m. at the fairgrounds in Perry for a coin flip to determine the site of the quarterfinal matchup.
"We're excited to be in this position," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "We're glad to have this shot at (Lowndes)."
Grayson used both its grinding running game and stout defense to control the tempo on both sides of the ball. The offense rolled up 269 yards on the ground while the defense held the Raiders (9-3) to 150 total yards.
Running back Ean Pemberton shouldered the bulk of the load for Grayson, carrying the ball 31 times for 181 yards and one touchdown.
"Our offensive line did a great job and the defense did well in the pass coverage," Pemberton said. "We made the commitment to block as hard as we could on the outside and we did what we had to do for one another."
Of East Paulding's 150 total yards, 60 of that came on one play in the first quarter when quarterback Jesse Groover hit receiver Ed Cazanave down the right side for a TD and an early 7-0 lead, marking the first time this season that Grayson had trailed.
"I like the way we responded," Conn said. "We didn't panic and took advantage of some of their mistakes. Our defense adjusted real well and we didn't give up any more big passes."
Grayson answered on the ensuing possession with a tremendous drive that covered 76 yards on 20 plays, chewing up 10:29. The drive nearly stalled when Grayson faced an early punting situation on a fourth-and-6 but on offsides penalty on the Raiders shortened it to fourth-and-1.
Conn elected to go for it and quarterback Tyler Horne picked up the first down on a 1-yard sneak. Fifteen plays later, Terry Williams bulled in from one-yard out for the TD.
On the ensuing PAT, East Paulding was flagged again for offsides and Conn rolled the dice by going for two. Again, the Rams dialed up Williams' number and he easily powered in for the two-point conversion.
Grayson extended the lead to 14-7 in the closing seconds of the first half when the Rams went 85 yards on just five plays in 41 seconds.
Pemberton got the drive started with a 20-yard run and Horne hit Kori Gaines on a 39-yard pass to move the ball to the Raider 27. Two plays later, Pemberton scooted around the left end and went 21 yards for the score. The PAT was wide left and the Rams led 14-7 at the half.
In the second half, the Grayson defense limited East Paulding to five possessions with the deepest penetration just crossing midfield. Kicker Austin Clark later added to the lead on a 33-yard field goal, helped in large by holder Patrick Santry's handling a very low snap.
"This was the second round of the playoffs and it was very intense and emotional out there," Grayson linebacker Jonathan Langston said. "A lot of people doubted us when the season started but we've proved them wrong. We gave up that touchdown early but we didn't get down and I think we can take this win a long way."