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Rams aim for fourth straight win over Parkview

Three years ago, Grayson won its biggest game in Class AAAAA to that point in the program's short history.

The Rams knocked off perennial Region 8 power Parkview as they went on to the playoffs in 2006. Since then, Grayson has become one of the premier teams in Gwinnett County and the state.

"That was a huge win for us," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "All of them along the way have helped, but that was a big one."

The No. 2 Rams face Parkview tonight at the Big Orange Jungle in Lilburn, looking to make it four straight wins over the Panthers.

Since that game three years ago, Parkview has been on a tail-spin of three consecutive first-round losses in the playoffs after reaching the quarterfinals for 11 straight years.

The Panthers have put a heavy emphasis on getting out of the first round of the playoffs this year. A win over Grayson would not only put Parkview back on the state scene, but also put the Panthers in position to claim their first region title since 2004.

Grayson (4-0) and Parkview (3-1) are two of the three unbeaten teams in Region 8 play at 2-0. Brookwood was off last week and is 1-0.

"You play them one at a time," Parkview head coach Cecil Flowe said. "We're going to prepare for them like anyone else and be as competitive as possible. It's a step in what decides the region. It's a big step and a big game. The rest of the games get tougher."

Parkview gave Grayson its toughest regular season game last season, losing 24-22. It was the most points scored on Grayson's stingy defense all season.

The Panthers have moved to more of a spread offense this season in which quarterback Kalik Barnes has flourished.

"They started that on us last year and we had to adjust on the fly. We'll be ready for that this year, hopefully," Conn said. "They've got a lot of speed, I mean a lot of speed."

Barnes is third in the county with 718 yards and six touchdowns on 49 of 80 passing. Nearly 300 of those yards have gone to Jay Davis, who also has three TDs.

"I'm still not happy with the way we're playing," Flowe said. "We're winning games, so that's good. But we've got to develop an identity. You see some good things and then some things you've coached them not do. Our running game is starting to come along a bit."

For all the attention Grayson's defense receives, Parkview's defense has been pretty good, too, this season. First-year defensive coordinator Chad McGehee, who held the same title at Grayson from 2000-05, has built a defense that has allowed 17 points in four games and has back-to-back shutouts.

"I'd say that's great," Conn said. "Coach McGehee has done a really great job. They've gone from the 4-3 that they ran for so long to the 3-4 where they are moving people all over the place."

Jesse Forte and Kenny Flowers are coming off big games after last week's 41-0 win over Meadowcreek. Forte posted eight tackles, three for loss and one sack, while Flowers had seven tackles, three for loss and two sacks.

The defense will have the challenge of slowing down a tough Grayson offense, led by running back Ean Pemberton. The senior has rushed for 565 yards and six TDs this season.

"They are Grayson - big, physical, knock you around," Flowe said. "They use their running back very effectively. You've got to cover Ean up the middle and then sideways. That's tough to cover."

Grayson's defense faced one of its biggest challenges of the year, holding South Gwinnett's high-scoring offense to its fewest points of the season in a 27-16 win.

"We beat a good football team. I was proud that our defense held a team that was averaging 49 points a game to 16. That's pretty good," Conn said.

Grayson is 26-7 over the last two and a half years since beating Parkview that first time, which includes a Region 8-AAAAA title last season.

"Parkview has a good football team," Conn said. "It's different being the hunted instead of the hunter. We know we are not going to get overlooked by anybody. Every game this year we've gotten everybody's best."

SideBar: GRAYSON AT PARKVIEW

Grayson Rams (8-AAAAA)

Coach: Mickey Conn

Record: 4-0, 2-0 region

Last week: Beat South Gwinnett 27-16

Parkview Panthers (8-AAAAA)

Coach: Cecil Flowe

Record: 3-1, 2-0 region

Last week: Beat Meadowcreek 41-0

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Grayson won 24-22 last year

Directions to Parkview High School: From I-85, go east on Indian Trail Road until it becomes Killian Hill Road. Turn right on Arcado Road and then left on Cole Drive. School is on the left.

Series history:

2008 - Grayson 24, Parkview 22

2007 - Grayson 19, Parkview 0

2006 - Grayson 28, Parkview 6

2005 - Parkview 14, Grayson 10

2004 - Parkview 41, Grayson 7