BREAKDOWN: Grayson at Central Gwinnett

Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall

Grayson Rams (8-AAAAA)

Coach: Mickey Conn

Record: 9-0, 7-0 region

Last week: Beat Brookwood 14-7

Central Black Knights (8-AAAAA)

Coach: Todd Wofford

Record: 4-5, 2-5 region

Last week: Beat Shiloh 33-26

On the surface, this would seem to be a classic trap game for the No. 2 state-ranked Rams, who wrapped up the region championship and the No. 1 playoff seed with last week's emotional win over defending state champion Brookwood.

But Grayson coach Mickey Conn sees this contest as an opportunity -- mainly to get a look at Central's high-powered spread offense, led by Gwinnett passing leader Eman Westmoreland and receiving leader Malachi Jones, that is similar to some the Rams will have to face in the postseason.

"I'm hoping this will prepare us well for down the road, including our (first-round) opponent, Collins Hill," Conn said. "It's a great challenge for us defensively to see how we've come since the Colquitt (County) game (in last season's state semifinals)."

The Rams' defense, especially linemen like junior Robert Nkemdiche, is already proven against the run, having allowed opponents just 34.8 yards per game on the ground.

Central's defense will be facing just as big a challenge, with Grayson adept at grinding out yardage and clock, but still able to burn teams through the air behind the arm of Nick Schuessler.

So, Todd Wofford's Black Knights will rely on dynamic defensive leaders like county tackles leader Trey Johnson and defensive back Josh Marshall to keep the Rams from killing the clock, and thus give the Central offense more opportunities.

"Most teams that play us want to keep our offense on the sideline," Wofford said. "So when we get an opportunity, we have to take it and execute so we can have a chance to make plays."

Last meeting: Grayson won 38-18 last year

Directions to Central Gwinnett High School: From I-85, take Sugarloaf Parkway exit and go east to Ga. Highway 29. Turn left on Highway 29 and school is on the right at Gwinnett Drive.