There's no place like home. At least, that's what the Grayson football team hopes when it plays host to Dacula in the Region 8-AAAAA opener for both teams tonight.
Of course, the road hasn't exactly been that bad for the No. 8 Rams (2-0) after wins over McEachern at the Georgia Dome and Warner Robins in middle Georgia to start the season.
"It will be nice not to get home at 2 a.m.," Grayson coach Mickey Conn joked. "(The players) are excited (about getting to play at home for the first time this season). And getting to play our first region game - it's an exciting time right now."
And what's not to be excited about? The Rams have been solid on both sides of the ball, especially with their ground-based, wing-T running attack.
The speed and quickness of Ean Pemberton and Harrell Gunn have combined with the power of fullbacks James Earl Jones and Greg Zellner and the craftiness of quarterback Tyler Horne to produce an average of 282 rushing yards per game.
And while the Rams have had little need to take to the air, Conn's confidence in their ability to do so is still high.
That's a good thing perhaps, since he is convinced Dacula's defense may force them to throw more than the 12 attempts they've put up in their first two games.
"We threw it all summer (in passing leagues and passing camps)," Conn said. "We haven't had to pass a lot, but I'm confident we can do it if we have to, and we may.
"Dacula is a good program. Their kids play hard. We know we're in for a battle. So, we know we need to control the ball and not give up big plays defensively."
While everything seems to be going right for Grayson, Dacula (0-2) has not been quite so fortunate.
The Falcons have lost close games to two tough opponents (Mill Creek and Collins Hill) with a combined 4-0 record, and facing a Grayson team with a lot of talent and confidence won't make for an easy welcome to Region 8-AAAAA.
But coach Kevin Maloof says his team is not wallowing in self-pity.
"Our kids are OK," Maloof said. "They realize a couple of mistakes here and there have cost us. Hopefully, they've learned the lesson that they've got to play every play. They can't take a play off.
"(Grayson is) a typical Region 8-caliber team in that they run the football. ... We know they can throw the ball when they need to, but we've got to get lined up right so we can be in the right place for the misdirection."
Given Grayson's ability to control the football and drain clock with its running game, it may behoove Dacula to get off to a quicker start than it has in its first two games.
The Falcons have shown sparks in the second half of both contests and have enough weapons like speedy receiver Marshall Steed and running backs Cody Davis and Aashad Holloway.
However, early deficits have proven too deep of a hole to climb out of each time.
"We've got to like what we did in the second half (last week) against Collins Hill - and that's control the ball," Maloof said. "We had an 18-play drive and a 16-play drive, and that really helped. But football is football. We've got to fight through any adversity. In last two cases, that meant coming from behind, but even if we're ahead, we still have to keep playing."
SideBar: DACULA AT GRAYSON
Dacula Falcons (8-AAAAA)
Coach: Kevin Maloof
Last week: Lost to Collins Hill 14-13
Grayson Rams (8-AAAAA)
Coach: Mickey Conn
Last week: Beat Warner Robins 30-0
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
Directions to Grayson High School: From I-85, go east on Sugarloaf Parkway to Ga. Highway 20 and turn right. Proceed through Grayson and turn right on Hope Hollow Road. School is immediately on the left.