Rams gear up for another stern test

Grayson hasn't been accustomed to losing many football games over the past three seasons.

So losing the preseason scrimmage and last week's season opener to Kell in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome must have come as a bit of a shock to Rams fans.

However, coach Mickey Conn is hardly in panic mode as the Rams (0-1) face another stern test this week against Alabama power Spain Park in the opener of the Progressive Football Challenge on Saturday at North Gwinnett.

"I feel pretty good," Conn said of his team. "We did some good things (last) Saturday considering we still have a lot of inexperienced players. But I think they're growing up."

Conn is hoping for further growth Saturday night, and it will have to come against a Spain Park team that holds many similarities to Grayson as a program.

The suburban Birmingham school opened up in 2002, just two years after Grayson, and has had plenty of success, including last year's 10-3 season that saw the Jaguars advance to the quarterfinals in Alabama's Class AAAAAA playoffs.

And this year's team, like the Rams, is a fairly young squad with just 15 seniors, though they also have plenty of talent.

Also like Grayson, the Jaguars like to stick to the basics.

A potent running game is led by quarterback Reid Reinagel and speedy running backs Ashton Daniel and Jonathon Mwaituka.

A sound defense is paced by Division I college prospects in defensive back Chris Humes (offers from Auburn and Kentucky as a junior) and defensive tackle Emmanuel Cooper (offers from UAB, Memphis and South Alabama).

"We're a lot alike in a lot of ways," Conn said of the two teams. "They would like to run the ball, but they can throw it. They've got some good weapons outside who can be dangerous if they get the ball.

"Defensively, they alternate between a 4-3 and a 50, and they mix it up quite a bit. They've got a good, well-coached team."

The Jaguars, however, will be without head coach David Shores, who was placed on administrative leave after allegedly striking a player at Tuesday's practice.

Spain Park school officials were scheduled to name in interim coach Thursday, but that announcement had not yet been made.

Conn also has a solid team despite so many new young players, though there are some major corrections he and his staff are looking to make from last week.

The Rams' committee of running backs that includes Ryan Braswell, Terrius Watson and Devin Gillespie and the quarterback tandem of Nick Schuessler -- whose injured hand continues to improve -- and Camen Marshall produced 268 yards of total offense last Saturday.

However, penalties at critical times squelched several drives as Grayson was held to just 10 points. In addition, three turnovers directly led to all of Kell's points in the 13-10 loss.

"We've just got to eliminate the turnovers and untimely penalties," Conn said. "The key for us is getting in the end zone. We've moved the ball, but we're not getting points."

The defense has been solid so far, holding Kell to just 186 total yards last week.

Still, Conn says there are also things to fix on that side of the ball.

"There are some minor busts we've got to eliminate," Conn said. "As far as the effort on offense, defense and special teams is concerned, I'm extremely pleased. The guys are working hard."