Grayson defense leads way to 20-9 win

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

SUWANEE -- Three turnovers that resulted in 13 points by its opponent killed Grayson last week in its season opener against Kell, but the Rams defense made sure that didn't happen again this week.

Despite a pair of turnovers, the Grayson defense killed each one as the Rams posted a 20-9 win over Spain Park, Ala., on Saturday night in the Progressive Football Challenge at North Gwinnett High School.

The Rams (1-1) also jumped out to a fast start on offense, getting 13 points on their first two possessions while disrupting the Jaguar offense with three turnovers of their own.

"Their fast start really killed us," Spain Park coach Ben Berguson said, who was named interim head coach after David Shores was put on administrative leave last week after an incident with a player in practice. "They hit us on a couple big plays. If we could've gotten some penetration in their backfield, we might've disrupted some of that."

Korey Jones got things going for Grayson when he scored the first two TDs for the Rams, getting one on a 21-yard run to cap off the game's opening possession and hauling in a 23-yard TD pass from Nick Schuessler on the Rams' second possession.

Jones was part of a running back by committee along with Tarrius Watson and Devin Gillespie. The trio combined for 37 carries and 152 yards, led by 70 yards on 18 carries and a TD by Watson. Gillespie tallied 45 of those yards on 13 rushes, while Jones finished with 37 yards and TD on six carries.

"We really came out on fire," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "I like the balance we had with Nick throwing the football and with the way we ran the ball. Our defense played great. We gave up two long balls but we settled down and did great."

Spain Park (0-1) was able to move the ball most of the night but the Grayson defense, combined with erratic throws from quarterback Nick Mullens, was enough to keep the Jaguars out of the end zone.

All of Spain Park's points come on special teams with place kicker Kegan Gaither hitting on three field goal attempts, connecting on kicks of 37, 32 and 44 yards.

Ironically, it was a miscue on special teams by Grayson that allowed Spain Park to get back in the game. Leading 13-3 with 15 seconds left in the half, the Rams lined up for a punt from their own 16.

However, the kick was badly shanked, and was downed at the Ram 15 with five seconds left, giving Gaither enough time to convert the 32-yard kick as time expired to cut the score to 13-6.

Gaither's third kick of the night, this one from 44 yards, with 2:54 left in the third pulled Spain Park even closer at 13-9, but a great return on the ensuing kickoff by Camen Marshall for 67 yards to the Spain Park 30 set up a short scoring scoring drive, ending six plays later on Watson's 2-yard TD plunge.

"That kickoff return was a big momentum swing," Conn said. "That just ignited our offense."

Spain Park took over and put together a drive of its own, flying from its own 20 all the way to the Ram 23 on just four plays. However, a Mullens pass across the middle was snared by Michael Peek at the 15, effectively ending Spain Park's chance at coming back.

"I liked that interception that Peek had there at the end," Conn said. "He's got great balls skills and I'm really proud of him because that was a big play."

Schuessler ended his night with an efficient 88 yards, hitting 5-of-7 attempts with one TD. Spain Park's leading rusher was quarterback Reid Reinagel, who shared time with Mullens to rush for 83 yards on 12 carries.