Top-ranked Rams arrive at next step

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman . Grayson's Ean Pemberton drags Parkview's Christian Newsome into the end zone.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman . Grayson's Ean Pemberton drags Parkview's Christian Newsome into the end zone.

Grayson wrapped up its Region 8-AAAAA championship weeks ago.

It blew through the final weeks of the regular season against teams with losing records, putting up big numbers in every game on offense. It's defense allowed one field goal in the final three weeks.

Now, everything changes.

"We are excited to finally be here," head coach Mickey Conn said of the playoffs. "Anytime you make the playoffs it's exciting."

The excitement begins with a visit from the .500 Marietta Blue Devils tonight. The Blue Devils won their final two games to earn the No. 4 seed from Region 5-AAAAA and found their offense along the way. After a two-game midseason swoon where they were shutout twice, the Blue Devils have scored more than 20 in three of their last five games.

"They have a running back that is the fastest running back we have seen all year," Conn said, of Marietta' Greg Franklin, adding that wide receiver Charles Francois looks even faster on film. "We have seen speed before, but nothing quite so fast."

Conn compared Franklin's speed to former Lowndes star Greg Reid, who is now at Florida State.

Reid rushed for 171 yards last year in Grayson's win over Lowndes, but 81 came on one play. Avoiding the big play is Conn's biggest concern.

"They are the type of team that can have three big plays and those big plays can be the difference in the ball game," Conn said.

But Grayson's wing-T should be the antidote. Even with the elusive Ean Pemberton leading the attack, the Rams win games by gobbling up clock on offense.

Grayson is again senior heavy and has won 10 games for the third straight season. But 10 wins are no longer the goal. That number is now 15.

"It's been a great run so far," Conn said of his senior class. "It's two regular seasons in a row we went 10-0 and that is a great statement for our seniors and our program.

"But you have to play your best every week and I think our kids learned that last year (in the playoff loss to Peachtree Ridge)."

The most telling show of the Rams' focus to Conn came over the past three weeks. The unbeaten Rams easily could have lost focus and played poorly against teams with sub-.500 records, but instead, they blew them out.

That is focus, and fun.

"We need to go out there and have fun," Conn said. "For some, this could be their last football game and if they want to keep playing they need to play well and they need to just win. The fun is in the winning."