For all the bad injury news that has hit top-ranked Grayson this football season, the report on star running back Ean Pemberton was positive.
The minor shoulder pain that sidelined Pemberton for most of last week's first-round win over Marietta won't keep him from playing in this Friday's home game against Roswell in the Class AAAAA playoffs.
Though Pemberton reeled off 121 rushing yards on 14 carries before his first-half injury last Friday, his offense barely missed a beat on ball control. The Rams (11-0) ran 68 plays to Marietta's 28, good for an amazing time of possession -- 34 minutes, 10 seconds.
Sophomore backs Devin Gillespie, Terrius Watson and Korey Jones filled in well with Pemberton's workload, but their runs were made easier by an efficient offensive front.
"The offensive line played an incredible game," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "It's one of the best offensive lines we've had come through here. They're not overly big, but they're physical and fast. We like that in the wing-T. And they're great competitors, that's what I really like."
Seniors Alex Mueller and Phillip Dickerson are returning starters to anchor the guard spots beside a two-player rotation at center, Zach Cooper and Jerry Carrafa. Michael Young and Justin Carlyle are the tackles, while Jesse Glaze, Corey Hale and Wilson Hudgins all played last week at tight end.
That position gets a boost this week when Nick Benzor returns from a knee injury. Big fullback Joseph Champaign got back from his knee injury last Friday.
"Our offensive line played an incredible game," Conn said.
While the replacements at running back fared well running behind that group, the Grayson coaches would prefer to have No. 24 running the ball often.
"We're glad Ean's healthy," Conn said.
"I hate that he didn't get to finish the game the other night. But I'm real proud of how the other kids responded."
Grayson is one of five Gwinnett teams remaining in the AAAAA playoffs -- Brookwood plays at Peachtree Ridge in the second round, South Gwinnett plays at No. 8 Lassiter and No. 2 North Gwinnett hosts Woodstock.
In AA, No. 3 Buford plays at undefeated and seventh-ranked Jefferson. Top-ranked Wesleyan hosts No. 10 Bowdon in the Class A second round.