Grayson in position to 'Finish The Mission'

When Mickey Conn first heard the slogan created by his seniors, he wasn't sure if he liked it.

He thought about it for a moment and then agreed it would be fitting for the upcoming season.

'Finish The Mission' has been Grayson's mantra all season. It began after the Rams lost to Colquitt County in last year's semifinals.

Grayson will host Colquitt tonight in the semis of the Class AAAAA playoffs, which features two nationally ranked teams. The Rams are No. 5 in the nation by USA Today and the Packers are No. 14.

"It started here. This is what we worked for all year," Conn said. "It's what our seniors wanted. So far they are in position to do that."

Grayson lost to Colquitt last season 31-24 in the semis, ending another great season a game short.

"We beat them up there last year in a war," Colquitt County coach Rush Propst said. "Their program is as good as ours."

The Rams, who are in their third semifinal in four years, will get another shot at a state championship berth. The winner of tonight's game plays the Lassiter vs. Walton winner in the Georgia Dome next Saturday.

"We're excited to be in the semis again and have another opportunity," Conn said. "We didn't play really well against them last year. Our kids are excited for another opportunity."

A trip to that elusive state championship game for Grayson hinges on getting past a Colquitt squad that has been impressive on the road.

The Packers (11-2) defeated Region 7 champion North Gwinnett two weeks ago in Suwanee and then went to No. 1-ranked Camden County and beat them. Colquitt converted fourth-and-23 with 33 seconds left in the game and then added a two-point conversion for the 32-31 victory.

"Our guys have played really well in the last three or four minutes of games," Propst said.

Colquitt has one of the state's top players in tight end Ty Smith, who has committed to Georgia.

"They move him around and try to get him in a lot of positions," Conn said.

Quarterback Cole Segraves has thrown for nearly 1,900 yards and 17 TDs this season in the Packers' spread offense. Willie Woodyard, who had two TDs in the win over North, is the team's leading rusher. Colquitt has an offensive line that features 6-foot, 265-pound center Bryce Giddens, who was a state placer in wrestling and is headed to Southern Mississippi. Guard Preston Mobley (6-3, 275) has drawn interest from several Division I schools and has an offer from Alabama-Birmingham.

"This will be the best offensive line we've faced," Conn said. "They are big, physical and smart. It should be a good challenge for our defensive line."

There's been few teams that have had success against Grayson's defense this year, which is allowing 7.6 points a game. The unit is led by defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, who has 15 sacks and 16 tackles for loss.

"Nkemdiche looks like Julius Peppers. He looks like a first round draft choice in high school," Propst said. "We played against him last year, so that helps. He's playing more offense this year, so that's a concern. He's a great football player, one of the best I've ever seen. But that's not all they've got."

Middle linebacker Jake Muller is the team's leading tackler, but he will be out tonight after breaking his ankle in last week's game. Devin Gillespie, the team's leading rusher, and Gage Schraub will split time at the position.

Kasey Gaines leads the team in interceptions with five, while Jordan Germany and Jay Strickland are among the team's leading tacklers.

"What doesn't stand out about Grayson? They are a great football team," Propst said. "There's a reason they are 13-0. They have some good players and then a couple of great players."

The last five seasons, Grayson has been Gwinnett's most successful program. The Rams are 58-9 since 2007, which includes three Region 8 championships and five trips to the quarterfinals. The only thing missing is a trip to the Georgia Dome and a state championship.

"We'd like to. The success of our program doesn't depend on us making it to the next round," Conn said. "These are high school kids and they are giving 100 percent and that's all we ask. It would be nice get over the hump."