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8-AAAAA leaders Parkview, Grayson face showdown

With the high school football season reaching its midway point for many Gwinnett teams tonight, it may still seem a little too early to talk about the playoff implications of a single game.

Certainly Grayson coach Mickey Conn and his Parkview counterpart Cecil Flowe think so as their teams prepare to square off tonight at 7:30 at Britt-Moody Field.

"Our goal each week is to got 1-0," Conn said. "That's how we're going to approach this game. We don't need to have that kind of pressure right now. ... We're not trying to make anything more of it than what it is."

Conn's caution - a position shared by Flowe - notwithstanding, both the No. 6 state-ranked Rams (4-0, 2-0) and the Panthers (3-1, 2-0) have a lot to gain with a win tonight.

The victor will hold the Region 8-AAAAA lead heading into the second half of the season, and could really be in the driver's seat if Brookwood (1-2, 1-0) loses at Berkmar.

Whichever team it is to get the keys to that driver's seat may be the one that wins what figures to be a very physical battle in the trenches between two of the top running games in Gwinnett.

Grayson is second in the county in rushing at 279 yards per game behind a powerful offensive line and its deep corps of running backs like Ean Pemberton (69-454, 4 TDs), James Earl Jones and Harrell Gunn.

But what makes the Rams so dangerous, according to Flowe, is not just that they execute it with an array of sweeps, dives and misdirections out of their wing-T set.

They also complement that running attack with an efficient air game, when needed, on the arm of quarterback Tyler Horne, who threw for a season-high 212 yards and two touchdowns on 7 of 12 passing in last week's 49-14 win over South Gwinnett.

"We've got to stop their wide runs and counter game," Flowe said of Grayson. "But they're not one-dimensional. It's what every team tries to do."

As dominating as Grayson's ground game is, Parkview is pretty adept at running the football as well, leading the county in rushing yards.

The Panthers have the county's top rusher in Auburn-bound Brandon Jacobs (90-676, 10 TDs) and fellow senior TaRon Squires (34-301, 6 TDs), who form a formidable combination.

And Conn knows if the Rams don't buckle down on their defensive line, the Panthers may beat them at their own game.

"We've played some physical ball games, but when you're talking about Parkview, you're talking about probably the most physical team we've seen this year," Conn said. "They've got quite a thunder and lightning pair. They come at you in different ways. We'll definitely have to play some hard-nosed defense and do a good job tackling."

Both teams come into tonight's game on a roll.

While Grayson has been operating like a well-oiled machine pretty much all season, Parkview had to rebound from an embarrassing opening-season loss to Collins Hill, but seems to have righted the ship.

At least, Flowe hopes the Panthers have.

"We've made progress every week," Flowe said. "We've made strides, but we're still getting better, and we've still got to do things right. If we don't, we're not going to have a good result. If we do, we'll have a chance, and that's all you ask is to have a chance."

SideBar: PARKVIEW AT GRAYSON

Parkview Panthers (8-AAAAA)

Coach: Cecil Flowe

Record: 3-1, 2-0 region

Last week: Beat Meadowcreek 65-20

Grayson Rams (8-AAAAA)

Coach: Mickey Conn

Record: 4-0, 2-0 region

Last week: Beat South Gwinnett 49-14

Last meeting: Grayson won 19-0 last year

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.

Series history:

2007: Grayson 19, Parkview 0

2006: Grayson 28, Parkview 6

2005: Parkview 14, Grayson 10

2004: Parkview 41, Grayson 7