Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Grayson's Jordan Germany pushes his way up just short of the goal line during Friday's semifinal game against Colquitt County. The Rams went on to score on the next play and beat Colquitt to advance to the state championship game.
Grayson vs. Colquitt County highlights
Highlights from Grayson's 35-31 over Colquitt County in the state semifinals.
LOGANVILLE -- After two failed attempts to reach the state championship, Grayson will finally play for its first title.
Quarterback Nick Schuessler threw the game-winning pass to lead the Rams to a 35-31 semifinal victory over Colquitt County on Friday.
Grayson, which is ranked No. 5 in the nation by USA Today, will play Walton Dec. 10 in the Georgia Dome for the Class AAAAA state championship.
"What a way to win. I'm extremely proud of Nick Schuessler," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "We were mixing and matching and he just stayed in there with great poise and did what we had to do."
The Rams (14-0) will end their season where it began. Grayson defeated Kell in the Corky Kell Classic in the Dome to start the year.
Grayson reached the state semifinals in 2008 and lost to Peachtree Ridge in overtime. The Rams were again knocked out in the semis last year by Colquitt County.
"We've been to three of them. We've lost two close ones and now won a close one," Conn said. "But this isn't where it ends. We wanted to win this game, so we can get to that next game. We're excited about the opportunity to play for the state championship."
Colquitt's Oscar Luna kicked a 45-yard field goal with 7:17 left to give the Packers their first lead 31-28.
Schuessler and the Rams took over at their own 13 for the game-winning drive. The series was helped by three defensive penalties by Colquitt. The biggest was a pass interference call on fourth-and-2 at the Packers 26.
"We always kept our composure," Schuessler said. "We got the better end of some penalties."
The Rams were helped by another pass interference call on third down and then Schuessler threw his game winning six-yard score to Marcus Lindquist for a 35-31 lead with 28 seconds left.
Colquitt (11-3) threw a Hail Mary pass from the Grayson 44, but it was knocked down to end the game.
"Man, a lot of people don't give us credit for passing in our offense," Schuessler said. "Marcus is one of my best friends. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's like the end of a movie that I would throw it to him."
Schuessler was 9 of 15 for 150 yards in the game with two TD passes. Grayson opened the game with a 6-minute, 77-yard drive. Robert Nkemdiche picked up most of his yards on the series, getting the Rams to the 10. Jordan Germany scored on a four-yard run to make it 7-0.
"We wanted to go after them and that's what we did," Conn said.
Colquitt countered with its own long drive thanks to four Grayson penalties. The Rams were whistled for 17 penalties for 103 yards. Sharmaine Washington scored on a two-yard run to tie the game.
Devin Gillespie was the game's leading rusher with 103 yards and gave Grayson the lead again with a 78-yard touchdown run.
Gage Schraub led the Rams' stop on fourth down at the Colquitt 44. That set up Schuessler's 44-yard touchdown pass to Austin Meadows, his first of the year, and gave Grayson a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Germany forced a fumble and Schraub recovered the ball at the Colquitt 24. The Rams couldn't convert on fourth down and the Packers drove 79-yards for a TD.
Willie Woodyard's 15-yard run up the middle made it 21-14 with 5:43 left in the half.
Grayson had a second chance inside the Colquitt 25-yard line, but couldn't come away with points. Nkemdiche's fourth-down run to the eight was short and the Rams held a 21-14 lead at halftime.
Nkemdiche picked up his first sack of the game to start the third quarter. Then the junior scored on a one-yard run over the top of the pile to give Grayson a 28-14 lead. He finished with 74 yards rushing.
Colquitt came right back with its own scoring drive. Ty Smith caught a 26-yard pass and Bobby Hill had a 33-yard catch to the one. Washington got his second TD on a one-yard run to make it 28-21. Smith, who has committed to Georgia, had five catches for 106 yards. Hill had five catches for 88 yards.
Grayson missed on a 17-yard field goal and Colquitt drove down to tie the game. Cole Segraves, who was 14 of 23 for 241 yards, completed 30-yard passes to Ty Smith and Tre Cooper. Woodyard scored his second TD on a four-yard run to make it 28-28 to start the fourth quarter.
The Rams tried a fake punt on the next drive, but the pass was incomplete. Colquitt took advantage of the good field position and drove down to set up Luna's field goal for a 31-28 lead.
That was the only time the Packers led as Schuessler and Rams came back for the game-winning score.
"I knew we always had a chance to the last second," Meadows said. "We knew we had a chance to win."