Photo by Christine Troyke
LOGANVILLE -- With Ean Pemberton limited to just one quarter of dominance, Grayson needed to find another clock gobbler in its backfield.
Enter Devin Gillespie.
The Rams converted their wing-T offense from Pemberton to Gillespie and missed the explosiveness of Pemberton, but not the reliability. On any down.
Gillespie carried the ball a game-high 26 times for 96 yards and it was the sophomore who converted three of the Rams' six fourth-down conversions as Grayson dominated time of possession in a 21-14 win over Marietta in the first round of the playoffs. The Rams move on to face Roswell, which needed two overtimes to beat Collins Hill.
"I just had to fill in for Ean. It was a lot of fun," Gillespie said. "I just kept thinking, I don't want to let my teammates down."
He didn't. Especially on fourth downs.
"You get four downs to work with and we decided tonight was a night to go for it," said Grayson head coach Mickey Conn, who opted to try for the first down four times in the first quarter and three times on the Rams' side of the field.
"Our offense is geared to get a least one yard. I felt like we would be able to do that."
The only things Gillespie didn't do was find the end zone or lead the team in rushing.
Pemberton did both of those things. Before a stinger sidelined the senior back, Pemberton racked up 123 yards and two touchdowns on consecutive runs in the second quarter.
The first one went for a yard, the second for 77. All but three of Pemberton's 15 carries came in the second quarter.
"We lost Ean and that hurt us a lot," Conn said. "I am real proud of Devin and our other sophomore backs."
Along with Gillespie, Devin Watson carried the ball nine times for 39 yards as the Rams piled up 311 rushing yards while keeping the explosive Marietta offense off the field.
"If they don't have the ball, they can't score," Conn said.
The Blue Devils rarely had the ball. They had no first downs in the first half and ran just 13 total plays. The offense had three yards by halftime and trailed 21-7. They scored on 97-yard kickoff return by Charles Francois.
"They have an explosive team. I am real, real proud of how our defense played tonight," Conn said. "They stood tall."
The Rams' defense got a boost with the return of defensive lineman Joseph Champaign, who played sparingly as he tries to return from a torn ACL suffered earlier in the season.
"We wanted to get him some work and see how he did," Conn said.
Marietta ended the game with 121 total yards and four first downs and that included a 54-yard completion that led to its second score.
"Our defensive backs have to be more aware than that," Conn said of the late big play.
But when the onside kick failed, the Rams easily bled the final two minutes away.
The offensive line dominated and Gillespie found the open field.
The final five carries went to Gillespie and he picked up 28 yards and two first downs. He last carry went eight yards up the middle.
"Our offense kept them off the field the whole night," Conn said. "I am real proud of our effort. We played well."