Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Grayson's Marcus Lindquist watches as the final seconds expire and the Rams beat Colquitt County on Friday night in the semifinals. Lindquist scored the go-ahead touchdown.
Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Grayson head football coach Mickey Conn addresses the team following the Rams' win over Colquitt County on Friday night to advance to the state finals.
* Additional Game Action Photos
LOGANVILLE -- Grayson receiver Marcus Lindquist pulled in what he said was the biggest catch of his high school career.
It was also the biggest catch in Grayson's history.
Lindquist's catch of a Nick Schuessler pass with 28 seconds left to play lifted the Rams over Colquitt County 35-31 Friday night in the Class AAAAA state semifinals, putting Grayson into its first championship game.
That catch ended a remarkable drive, one that started nearly seven minutes earlier all the way back on the Grayson 13-yard line.
Grayson had seemingly been in control most of the night, twice building leads of 14 points at 21-7 and 28-14, only to see the Packers storm back and score 17 straight to take a 31-28 lead with 7:17 remaining.
The Rams took the ensuing kickoff and did little with it, returning the ball to just their own 13. With 7:11 left in the game, the end zone stood 87 yards away, and with all the momentum the Packers had built, it felt like 887 yards to many in the home stands.
The drive's first two plays offered little hope of a game-saving event as the Rams went backward two yards, putting them at third-and-12.
Schuessler then tried to hit Callen Hightower on an out route, but missed on the attempt. However, Colquitt was flagged for defensive holding, giving the Rams third-and-two.
Grayson appeared to have converted the third down when Schuessler connected with Matt Roon for a 13-yard gain, but the Rams were penalized for having an ineligible man downfield.
Now at third-and-seven, Schuessler shook off the setback and floated one across the middle to Austin Meadows for a 26-yard completion, a play that injected life and hope back into the crowd.
"Whatever we worked on in practice paid off," Meadows said. "When I saw Marcus make that catch, I went wild."
Now at their own 42, the Rams running game took over, getting the ball on the next seven plays to get to the Packer 26.
However, the Rams were facing fourth-and-three and took a shot through the air. Jordan Germany was the intended target and couldn't come up with the catch because of defensive pass interference.
Defensive interference came up big again three plays later when Hightower was plowed over by a Packer defender in the end zone, a call that gave the Rams first-and-goal from the six.
That's when Schuessler found Lindquist open for the game-winning score.
"My line gave me all the time I needed on that play," Schuessler said. "It was supposed to be a quick 1-2-3 route, but Marcus found an opening. That comes from us playing together for so long and trusting in each other to make plays."
The catch was the first of the night for the senior receiver and his third TD catch of the season.
"Coaches called a quick slant but Colquitt had it covered pretty well," Lindquist said. "I sat down in the open space and Nick found me.
"We just had to stay composed and dig down deep and make plays. We work on our two-minute drill every day in practice but hadn't needed to use it much this year."
Colquitt took over with 24 seconds left and was able to get in position for a Hail Mary, but the pass was batted down in the end zone, sending the Rams to their first championship game.
"That absolutely has to be the biggest drive in our history," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "Our kids were so resilient. We had to make some plays down the stretch and Nick and Marcus made a great one at the end."
"I'm so proud of our offense because, all year, it's been about our defense and our offense had to pick it up tonight."
Not counting the plays that had penalties, the drive netted 14 snaps with the longest play being the 28-yard pass to Meadows. Colquitt helped keep the drive going with three penalties (one defensive holding, two pass interference), while the Rams were flagged once.
The Rams converted two third downs and one fourth down. The last few plays of the drive also saw the field goal unit ready to come in for a game-tying kick, but the only kick that was needed was the extra point.