Not too long ago, Brookwood was the measuring stick for an up-and-coming Grayson program.
The rival Broncos had a firm grasp on the Region 8-AAAAA title, while the Rams were building up to that point. All that changed last season, when Grayson got its first-ever win over Brookwood and later added its first 8-AAAAA championship and 10-0 regular season.
Meanwhile perennial power Brookwood stumbled to a 6-5 season. The Broncos didn't start great again this season and enter tonight's matchup with the Rams sporting a 3-2 record.
Rival Grayson is 6-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA.
In that short span of time, Grayson became the state powerhouse. Now Brookwood is the team looking for an upset.
"We're playing better and we're making progress," Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. "Our kids are getting more confident. Our kids were green as gourds on defense when we started. ... If we can hang in there with Grayson on defense, we've got a chance.
"Grayson's doing some of the things us and Parkview had done for years. They're efficient on offense, but they're dang good on defense."
That combination helped the Rams break through last season against Brookwood, though that victory wasn't easy. They won 10-7 in a defensive battle.
But most of the games in the rivalry, aside from the 2005 season when the Broncos were state finalists, have been that way. They've all been close even in Grayson's early stages, with two meetings going to overtime.
Last year's game was a nail-biter, but also a giant boost for the Rams.
"Once you get over that hump of beating somebody, when you've been on the cusp of it, it gives your kids confidence," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "They feel good about themselves. But it's still going to be a tough game every year against Brookwood."
Conn doesn't think tonight will be much different.
Brookwood started 0-2, but has since won three straight over Shiloh, Berkmar and Meadowcreek, all lower-tier teams in the region. The Broncos are 3-0 in the region and stand as the only other unbeaten in Grayson's (4-0 in the region) path.
"Brookwood looks good," Conn said. "They look good on film. They've got some players out there, some players that they haven't had every week. They've got all the pieces in place and they've gotten better every week."
Grayson looks to be the short-handed team tonight. Starting tight end Nick Benzor tore the ACL in his knee and will be out. Conn said he hopes to delay surgery and finish out the season in a knee brace.
A win tonight would give Grayson a fairly smooth path to the region championship. The Rams have already dispatched of the region's other top playoff contenders (Dacula, South Gwinnett, Parkview and Shiloh), leaving three teams that entered this week winless - Berkmar, Meadowcreek and Central Gwinnett - in the final three games.
"This is a big hurdle," Conn said of Brookwood. "This is it. We've got to lay it all on the line this week."
While Grayson's schedule was top-heavy, Brookwood's slate is just the opposite, with Dacula, South and Parkview in the final three weeks.
Grayson head football coach Mickey Conn has been named the Touchdown Club of Atlanta's coach of the week.
Conn's Rams are ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA and undefeated going into tonight's game at Brookwood.
He will be honored at the club's weekly meeting Monday at the Fox Sports Grill at Atlantic Station. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is the featured speaker.
Jackson is the club's team of the week, while its back of the week is McEachern's Rajaan Bennett and its lineman of the week is Westminster's Andrew Bridges.
- From staff reports
SideBar: Grayson at Brookwood
Grayson Rams (8-AAAAA)
Coach: Mickey Conn
Record: 6-0, 4-0 region
Last week: Beat Shiloh 34-0
Coach: Mark Crews
Record: 3-2, 3-0 region
Last week: Beat Meadowcreek 64-15
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Grayson won 10-7 last year
Directions to Brookwood High School: From I-85, go east on Pleasant Hill Road and merge onto Ronald Reagan Parkway. Proceed to the Five Forks-Trickum Road exit. Turn right and take the next left on Dogwood Road. School is on the right.
2008: Grayson 10, Brookwood 7
2007: Brookwood 24, Grayson 7
2006: Brookwood 13, Grayson 7 (2OT)
2005: Brookwood 37, Grayson 13
2004: Brookwood 13, Grayson 7 (OT)