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Grayson clinches Region 8 title with Gaines' TD

Grayson's Robert Nkemdiche (1) finds a hole in the Brookwood defense during a game last season.

Grayson's Robert Nkemdiche (1) finds a hole in the Brookwood defense during a game last season.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Grayson's Casey Gaines (5) is congratulated by his teammates following the game against Brookwood on Friday night. Gaines had an interception with under a minute left in the game and scored the winning touchdown.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Grayson defenders Ryan Carter (23) and Jake Mueller take down Brookwood's Nick Tompkins (32) during Friday's game. The Rams defense allowed only 7 points.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman The Grayson sideline erupts following a pick six with less than a minute left in the game to break a tie against Brookwood on Friday night.

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LOGANVILLE -- Grayson's Kori Gaines led Gwinnett County in interceptions in 2009, but his younger brother now holds the family bragging rights.

Kasey Gaines intercepted a pass in the final minute of Friday's game against Brookwood and returned it for the game-winning score in the Rams' 14-7 win.

"I happened to be there in the right place at the right time and got the play," Kasey said.

The victory clinched the Region 8-AAAAA championship for No. 2 ranked Grayson (9-0, 7-0 region), the third for the program in four years.

"It means a lot, especially for the community," Gaines said. "With the videos being made and everything, it means a lot. It's a big win."

Brookwood (6-3, 5-2 region) had the ball on its own 24-yard line with less than a minute to play. Quarterback Zach Moon was flushed out the pocket to his left on a screen pass and tried to shovel pass the ball to Jamaal Cole. Gaines was there instead and picked it off and ran it 15 yards for a score with 27 seconds left in the game.

"He's a great athlete," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "He's a classy guy and I think God blessed him tonight."

Grayson, which is ranked No. 5 in the nation by USA Today, came into the game averaging 37 points a game, but was held to just one offensive touchdown on the game's opening drive.

Brookwood's defense had a big stop at the end of the first half and it stuffed Robert Nkemdiche on fourth-and-one with 5:28 left in the game.

But the Broncos' offense, which accounted for 185 total yards, couldn't put a final game-winning drive together.

"We did everything, but win the game," Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. "The kids played their hearts out. We just flinched at the worst possible time."

Grayson took the opening kickoff and grinded out a 14-play, 78-yard scoring drive. The series was helped by a personal foul by Brookwood and Nkemdiche scored on a seven-yard run with 4:18 left in the first quarter.

Grayson got the ball back with 5:29 before the half and threatened to add another score. The Rams got to the 7-yard line with 18 seconds left, but quarterback Nick Schuessler (12 of 18, 81 yards) was sacked and the Rams couldn't line up for a field goal in time.

"We only had the ball three times in the first half and should have scored on all of them," Conn said.

Brookwood had the ball for just two possessions and was only able to run 11 offensive plays in the first half.

Grayson's defense came into the game allowing only 28 yards rushing a game. The unit gave up 96 yards, but held Brookwood's Nick Tompkins, the county's leading rusher, to only 42 yards on 10 carries. Cole had 31 yards on nine carries.

"Props to the offense. They've got some fast backs," Gaines said.

Brookwood put together its only scoring drive on its second possession of the third quarter. The defense stopped Grayson after Moon was intercepted by Shattle Fenteng. Moon had an 18-yard run and B.J. Sammon caught a 27-yard pass. Michael Gouge caught a 21-yard pass and ran over a Grayson defender for a touchdown to the game 7-7.

Sammon was the game's leading receiver with five catches for 62 yards, while Moon was 7 of 20 passing for 81 yards and two interceptions.

The Broncos had a chance to take the lead at the end of the third quarter, but Brandon Morrow missed a 39-yard field goal.

Grayson had to punt twice and was stopped on fourth down in the fourth quarter. The Rams only had 44 yards of total offense and two first downs in the second half.

"Our defense played lights out in the second half," Crews said. "You play the No. 2 team in the state and No. 5 in the country and give up two first downs and still lose."

With both defenses dominating, it appeared the game was headed to overtime until Gaines came up with the biggest play of his career.

"I almost had a heart attack on the sideline," Schuessler said. "A win is a win."