Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Grayson head coach Mickey Conn gets his team fired up prior to the start of Saturday's Class AAAAA state championship game against Walton. Conn earned his 100th victory as the Rams' won the Class AAAAA state championship.
From the Class AAAAA State Championship
ATLANTA -- Winning a state championship has plenty of rewards in and of itself.
Yet sometimes, there are events in the course of a successful championship game that can act as the symbolic cherry atop a title sundae.
In many ways, Grayson's 24-0 win over Walton at the Georgia Dome in the Class AAAAA championship game late Saturday night, which secured the Rams' first football state title, provided not only the cherries, but chocolate syrup, as well.
"We did everything we wanted to," said junior defensive end Jack Banda, who had a big game that included 2 sacks, minutes after the final horn sounded. I felt like this is one of the best efforts (the team has given all season), but it still hasn't hit me yet. It feels like a dream still."
Adding to the culmination of the Rams' (15-0) dream season was the fact that the win was not only the 15th of 2011, it was also the 100th in the history of Grayson's program.
So, it was natural Mickey Conn, who started the program from scratch in 2000, was somewhat reflective following Saturday's big win.
"It's kind of like God just ordained this whole thing," said Conn, whose teams have averaged 8.8 wins in the 11 seasons that Grayson has played a full varsity schedule. "Our community, all the people that's been through the program. -- when you start a program, it's so hard. To culminate a state championship with the 100th win of the program -- wow, what a blessing. What a way to win a state championship."
The significance of the milestone was also not lost on some of the current Rams players, who looked at Saturday's win as much as a gift to their coach and the overall program as it was for themselves as a team.
"It's kind of crazy how everything worked out like that," said senior quarterback Nick Schuessler, who was a perfect 3-for-3 throwing the ball for 108 yards and two touchdowns. "Coach Conn's been working so hard. (The coaches) have put in so much time and effort to this. It's so awesome how this worked out ... to be his 100th win."
Saturday's win may also have another benefit that goes beyond the recognition of winning Georgia's highest classification state title.
Already on the radar for many national high school football polls, the win -- and the perfect season and state title that came with it -- has made the Rams pretty much a consensus top-five choice in the most prestigious national rankings, including No. 5 in USA Today's Super 25, No. 4 by ESPNHS/Powerade and No. 3 by Rivals.com.
And while Conn and his players preferred to downplay the national spotlight most of the season, he was more receptive of it following Saturday's win, though he still insisted winning the state title was all the recognition he and the Rams were looking for.
"I think you've got to make an argument for it," Conn said of high national rankings. "The fashion we (won the state title) it is pretty good. We're just thankful to have a state championship. All that other stuff is mythical, as far as we're concerned. (Maybe) we're national champs, too. We can believe that."
He'll get little argument from Walton (14-1) after Grayson turned in one of its most dominating performances of the season against a Raiders' team that had averaged a 26.9-point margin of victory in its previous 14 games, and had only two opponents -- including the Rams' Region 8-AAAAA rival Dacula -- come as close as single digits against it.
Perhaps the he biggest accomplishment was holding down Walton's star running back Tyren Jones, who came into Saturday's title game with 2,267 yards and 34 TDs on the ground, to just 74 yards -- 52 of which came on one run after the issue was no longer in doubt late in the fourth quarter -- and not TDs on 16 carries.
"They've got a great running back and a great offense," Conn said. "I can't say enough how good (Jones) is, and I can't say enough about how good our defense played against him. They really came out and hit (Saturday) night and played a physical football game. ... They've got a good play action game, but our coverage was on the money."