Grayson's Mitchell Tiah, left, causes Valdosta quarterback Ryan Whilden (12) to fumble the ball last Friday.
LOGANVILLE — As much as football is a total team game, certain matchups between individuals or units can be quite captivating.
That may be the case when Colquitt County comes to Grayson Community Stadium for a Class AAAAA state semifinal game with the host Rams tonight at 7:30 p.m.
COLQUITT COUNTY AT GRAYSON
Who: Colquitt County Packers (1-AAAAA) at Grayson Rams (8-AAAAA)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Grayson High School (From I-85, go east on Sugarloaf Parkway to Ga. Highway 20 and turn right. Proceed through Grayson and turn right on Hope Hollow Road. School is immediately on the left)
Coaches: Rush Propst, Colquitt; Mickey Conn, Grayson
Records: Colquitt 8-5, Grayson 10-3
Last week: Colquitt beat Mill Creek 27-14; Grayson beat Valdosta 22-0
Winner plays: Brookwood-Collins Hill winner in the state finals
Rushing: Tevin King, 1,778 yards
D’amonte Ridley, 747 yards
Passing: Tyler Brown, 2,762 yards
Receiving: Tyler Hudson, 1,086 yards
Tackles: Rashawn Hunt, 98
Interceptions: Stacey Blackwell, 2; Trey Scott, 2
Rushing: Ryan Braswell, 438 yards
Terrius Watson, 375 yards
Passing: Nick Schuessler, 1,527 yards
Receiving: Korey Jones, 400 yards
Garrett Horne, 337 yards
Tackles: Michael Peek, 103
Denzel Nkemdiche, 91
Interceptions: Peek, 4; Camen Marshall, 3
Cook L 15-9
S. Panola (Miss.) L 65-35
at Thom Co. Cent. L 35-29, OT
Westlake W 43-27
Warner Robins W 35-14
Carver (Ala.) W 35-31
at Tift Co. W 63-28
at Lowndes L 37-27
Coffee W 38-27
Valdosta L 36-29
at Jenkins W 50-21
at M.L. King W 48-47
Mill Creek W 27-14
Kell L 13-10*
Spain Park (Ala.) W 20-9#
Archer W 55-0
at Berkmar W 58-16
Shiloh W 48-0
at Dacula W 16-10
Parkview W 28-13
at South Gwinnett L 24-22
at Brookwood L 10-0
Central Gwinnett W 38-18
at North Forsyth W 31-0
at North Gwinnett W 23-19
at Valdosta W 22-0
*at Georgia Dome
#at North Gwinnett
Call it the proverbial immovable object meeting irresistible force.
Over the last several seasons, Grayson (10-3) has proven itself as having not only one of the best defenses in Gwinnett County, but also one of the best in the state of Georgia.
Such is the case this season, with the Rams, who are trying to reach the state finals for the first time in school history, allowing just 10.2 points and 196.3 yards per game despite having broken in several new starters from last year’s proud defensive until.
And as senior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche points out, the Rams are holding up the strong defensive tradition in a bit of a different manner this season.
“We had some great players last season,” said Nkemdiche, who has 91 combined tackles and assists, second on the team to fellow linebacker Michael Peek. “But in our offseason workouts, I feel like everybody was so determined. Everybody was coming to practice. Everybody was being so disciplined.
“We didn’t have (as) much speed last year as we do this year. It’s a very different style defense. We all love (forcing) turnovers. We all love running to the ball.”
If Colquitt County (8-5) has its way, Nkemdiche and the Rams should have plenty of opportunities to run to the ball.
The Packers come into tonight’s game averaging 35.9 points and 414.4 yards of offense per game, though its point total in last week’s 27-14 quarterfinal win over Mill Creek in Moultrie — only 20 of which were scored by the offense — matched its second lowest output of the season.
They are also quite balanced, behind school record setters like running back Tevin King (243 carries, 1,778 yards, 27 TDs), quarterback Tyler Brown (218 of 314, 2,762 yards, 24 TDs, 7 INTs) and receiver Tyler Hudson (82 receptions, 1,086 yards, 12 TDs).
But as prolific as Colquitt County has been, Rams coach Mickey Conn says the challenge the Packers present are similar to ones his team have faced earlier this season.
“South (Gwinnett) is probably the best offensive team we’ve seen,” Conn said. “I think you can compare (Colquitt County) to South if anybody, though they may actually throw it more than South.
“They’ve got two running backs (King and D’amonte Ridley) they like to get into space and throw to out of the backfield. Those guys play really good, really fast and with a purpose.”
But Colquitt County coach Rush Propst knows his team must not have a repeat performance of last week, in which the Packers turned the ball over four times despite rolling up 335 total yards, if it is to head back to the finals for the first time since winning the 1994 Class AAAA state title.
And the Rams have been quite adept at forcing turnovers, with opponents coughing up the ball 29 times this season, with Peek being the chief thief with four interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
Grayson also has instigated 17 miscues from opponents in three playoff games, including seven in last week’s 22-0 quarterfinal win at Valdosta.
Probst said that one of the biggest challenges Grayson poses to his offense is the multiple looks it gives.
“It’ll be a chess match,” Probst told the Moultrie Observer earlier the week. “What are they going to do? When will they blitz? We know our opportunities will be limited. We have just got to be patient and not get discouraged.”