Grayson capitalizes on special teams

LOGANVILLE -- Coaches try to emphasize the value of all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams.

But those special teams usually change the outcome of a game, especially come playoff time.

That's what happened Friday night as Grayson rolled to a 33-7 win over West Forsyth to advance to the Final Four of Class AAAAA next week and host Colquitt County.

Trailing 7-6 late in the first quarter, Grayson's special teams came to the rescue and turned a tight contest into a commanding lead and eventual win.

Punting from its own 32 on the final play of the opening quarter, Grayson punter Austin Meadows launched a 52-yard punt that West Forsyth's Tanner Bridges couldn't handle at the Wolverines' 14.

That's where Grayson's Shattle Fenteng came up with the fumble and the Rams' offense took just four plays to cash in the turnover for a 12-7 lead two minutes into the second quarter.

On West Forsyth's ensuing possession that resulted in a three-and-out, punter Graham Bunting couldn't corral a bad snap and Grayson took over at the Wolverines' 37.

Once again, Grayson took advantage of the West Forsyth mistake and scored in just five plays on Robert Nkemdiche's third of four touchdowns on the night.

That gave Grayson a sudden 19-7 lead with 5:55 before the half.

And with a defense like the Rams, a berth in the state semifinals seemed much more likely.

"We had some issues of our own on special teams early in the game missing an extra point and not converting a two-point try, but I thought we did a great job taking advantage of their mistakes in the punting game," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "But what was important was that we did take advantage of the mistakes. It doesn't do any good if you don't capitalize after getting those breaks.

"But we did and that changed how the game played out. We got the lead and then really did a good job of running our two-minute drill before the half."

Now that Grayson is back in the state semifinals, the magnifying glass will be on those special teams as the games get tighter and mistakes become so critical.

"We take pride in our special teams," Meadows said. "(Defensive coordinator) Coach (Robert) Andrews works hard with us and we work on all areas because it usually comes down to something in the kicking game. So we have to be ready and took advantage of some of (West Forsyth's) mistakes tonight.

"But we know this game is over and we have to get ready for next week. We're 1-0 and next week we'll be 0-0. It's one game at a time."