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Rams pit strength against strength with Vikings

Photo: David McGregor Grayson's Wayne Gallman (4) wraps up Collins Hill ball carrier Jordan Parker (21) during the Rams' first round victory over the Eagles in the Class AAAAA state playoffs. 

Photo: David McGregor Grayson's Wayne Gallman (4) wraps up Collins Hill ball carrier Jordan Parker (21) during the Rams' first round victory over the Eagles in the Class AAAAA state playoffs. 

It's a whole new crop of players, but not enough time has passed for memories to fade.

In a return playoff rematch from 2008, Lowndes makes the trip today to face Grayson in a rematch of sorts of a game marred by plenty of scuffles and highlighted by the Rams' upset of then nationally ranked Lowndes and its standout Greg Reid, now at Florida State.

This time it's the Rams with the national spotlight and the big-name player in Robert Nkemdiche. But aside from new names, it's the same showdown between similar teams.

"We match up pretty well," said Grayson head coach Mickey Conn. "They are ball control, they are fast. They run really well."

Both teams are the run-first wing-T style, focusing on power and defense. Two Vikings have more than 500 yards rushing and leading rusher Mike Moore cracked 1,000 during last week's win over Stephenson and now has 1,008 on the year with 10 touchdowns.

No single Grayson rusher can match Moore's production, but the backfield cast of Devin Gillespie, Wayne Gallman, Terrius Watson, Jordan Germany, Nkemdiche and others led the Rams to more than 2,000 yards of rushing in the regular season. With a big offensive line, the Rams showed again last week against Collins Hill all they need is a lead.

"If we get up on people we can squeeze the life out of them," Conn said. "Just run that clock."

In the Vikings' 7-0 win last week, they threw the ball six times for seven yards. Grayson threw 10, but quarterback Nick Schuessler went over 100 yards with the help of a few early screen passes.

"As much as we are full flow running the football, the screens kind of slow things down," Conn said. "Nick has done real well on running those and hitting his receivers."

More than well, Schuessler, the senior gives Grayson a passing option which allows it to spread the field and diverge from its base wing-T. They may not throw it much, but Schuessler has more than 1,000 yards on the season. That's a career's worth of production for Lowndes' Lance Jerriel, who has thrown 685 yards on 62 of 105 passing in 11 games.

And he hasn't needed to with a defense that hasn't allowed a point in the past two games and gave up more than 22 just once in a loss to Colquitt County.

Colquitt threw for 166 yards against the Vikings' defense, opening up an opportunity for Schuessler even Conn will admit.

"I think Nick (Schuessler) is probably the X-factor because Nick can really throw the ball and hurt them," Conn said.

The only other similarity in this year's version of Grayson-Lowndes is the location. It's the Vikings coming up from the south, riding in buses, making hotel plans. The Rams will just walk out the back door of the school.

"Playing them here is definitely to our advantage," Conn said.

This may just be the second meeting between the two schools, but Nkemdiche remembers watching from the stands, moreso he remembers losing to South Georgia's Colquitt County last year.

"They are always talking smack, they think South Georgia is better than here," Nkemdiche said. "We want to prove them, every year, wrong. Our goal is to beat every South Georgia team we play."