Rams' ball-control offense faces strong Newnan 'D'

Grayson plans to use its season-long formula -- strong defense and ball-control offense -- as usual tonight.

But moving the football may be tougher than ever for Class AAAAA's No. 1 team. The Rams (12-0) face fellow unbeaten Newnan and one of the state's most imposing defenses in tonight's quarterfinals.

"Newnan's got the No. 1 scoring defense in the state so we've got to find a way to score some points to give ourselves a chance," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "We've got to be able to find some holes in their defense."

Newnan has size up front and speed everywhere on defense, led by highly touted safety Alec Ogletree, a Georgia commit. His twin brother Zander plays linebacker alongside leading tackler Adam Strakose (94 stops).

The Cougars allow a measly 6.3 points per game, holding 10 of their 12 opponents to single digits. Take away a 43-26 win over rival East Coweta in the regular-season finale and that average is even more impressive.

"Their defense is No. 1 in the state so that's going to be a challenge for our offense," Grayson fullback Joseph Champaign said. "They have a bunch of athletes on the field. They're big, they're fast, they're physical and they're strong. We're really going to have to work this week."

It's no secret how Grayson will attack Newnan's 3-5 defense. Run, run and run. They rely on that strategy every week, even when opponents come out in a goal-line defense.

Rams quarterback Patrick Santry is a big part of the team's rushing attack, but rarely throws, with 634 passing yards in 12 games. But he doesn't have to throw too often because of Grayson's success running the ball.

Most of the yards come from the elusive Ean Pemberton, who has 1,655 rushing yards, Devin Gillespie and Santry. Terry Williams, a 260-pound linebacker, enters on short-yardage plays. Champaign, with a knee injury that prevents him from playing defensive end, is now a full-time battering Ram at fullback.

And they all benefit from what Conn calls "one of the best offensive lines we've had." And he's had some good ones.

Phillip Dickerson and Alex Mueller are starters at guard, with Michael Young and Justin Carlyle at tackle. Zach Cooper and Jerry Carrafa split time at center, while the Rams use four tight ends -- Jesse Glaze, Wilson Hudgins, Corey Hale and Nick Benzor.

"We've got a great offensive line," Conn said. "That's a big key for us."