Rams get home game, but no lesser opponent

For those wondering exactly how the Georgia High School Association coin flips went down this past Saturday, most went something like this.

Grayson head football coach Mickey Conn drove south to the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry, where he met up with Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson, who had driven north.

Before the two exchanged game tapes, Conn pulled a quarter out of his pocket for a small audience of administrators and coaches from the two schools. No GHSA official monitors the flip - it's up to the two schools to work out.

It was McPherson's call on the toss, with the winner hosting Friday night's Class AAAAA quarterfinal game. He called tails, but it failed.

Grayson earned the quarterfinal game, saving a large chunk of money in travel expenses as well as the rigors of travel for the Rams players and coaches.

"That was awesome," Conn said of Saturday morning's flip, which he attended with assistant coaches O.J. Soto and Lenny Gregory and athletic director Wayne Smith. "We got in the car and we were fired up. It was a unique experience.

"It was like playing two games in a row. You win Friday night and then you win Saturday."

Winning last Saturday will be much easier for the Rams than it will be this Friday.

Lowndes has won three of the last four state championships in Class AAAAA, battering a handful of Gwinnett programs along the way. The Vikings have defeated a Gwinnett team in three state championship games since 2004, most recently a 34-6 win over North Gwinnett last season.

"They're obviously a talented football team," Conn said.

One that's surprisingly similar to Grayson. Both teams are physical up front, preferring to pound teams by running the ball. And both do their running out of a wing-T offense that doesn't have too many differences, aside from a little use of the triple option by Lowndes.

Grayson quarterback Tyler Horne and running back Ean Pemberton have guided that running attack to a huge season - the 12-0 Rams have 3,437 rushing yards - but the Lowndes offense is just as explosive.

The Vikings, also 12-0 and ranked as high as third nationally in two polls, feature high level backs Greg Reid (Florida commitment) and Gerald Demps (Florida State).

"I hope you like wing-T football," Conn said.

"There's going to be a lot of wing-T football going on."

Neither attack should surprise the other since the teams see the wing-T so frequently.

"There are a lot of unbalanced lines with this bunch (at Lowndes), but the good thing is our team has seen it in practice since the spring," Conn said. "We ought to know how to line up against an unbalanced line."

Friday marks the Rams' second straight trip to the AAAAA quarterfinals, but they have never advanced past this point. They faced an extended overnight road trip in last year's Elite Eight to Camden County, where their season ended.

Win or lose, they won't have a long road trip this year. It saved money - it took roughly $20,000 to transport Grayson's football team, cheerleaders and band members to Camden last year for an overnight stay - but Conn is more excited about the football side of it.

His players get to stay at home, eat at home and play in front of their home crowd on Friday.

Thanks to a winning coin toss.

"I think it's huge, not having to go down there, with their crowd in their territory," Conn said. "But time will tell."

SideBar: Grayson-Lowndes to be on CSS

CSS will air a live broadcast from Friday night's Class AAAAA quarterfinal football game between host Grayson and Lowndes, the defending state champion.

The game, a 7:30 p.m. start, can be seen in Atlanta and with other select cable systems in Georgia on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast. CSS is channel 45 on Comcast cable and channel 37 on Charter cable.

CSS will show the game to its entire network following the conclusion of the South Carolina vs. College of Charleston men's basketball game at roughly 9 p.m.

For more information, go to www.css-sports.com.

- From staff reports