LAWRENCEVILLE -- While Grayson and Archer are separated by just seven miles in eastern Gwinnett, the gap is getting a little closer on the football field.
Grayson did eventually put away Archer 34-7 in the Region 8-AAAAA opener for both teams, but the Rams didn't roll over their closest neighbor like they did a year ago in a 55-0 rout.
That's because Archer, in its third year of existence and second year in Region 8-AAAAA, played tough throughout the game and forced Grayson -- ranked No. 3 in the state -- to keep the pedal to the medal.
"I'm pleased with the way we played even though we had some mistakes," said Grayson head coach Mickey Conn. "I thought we were in control of the game and we had some good things happen. But give credit to Archer, because Coach (Andy) Dyer and his coaches and players played hard and they have worked hard to become a good team. They made us play the entire game and we had to keep working."
It looked the two teams would head to the locker room with Grayson holding on to a 14-0 lead at halftime.
Wayne Gallman scored from seven yards out with 3:58 left in the first quarter to complete a 14-play, 87-yard drive. Then Robert Nkemdiche banged in from a yard out to give the Rams a two-touchdown lead with less than a minute left in the first half.
But Archer (1-2, 0-1) got the ball back late in the second quarter and elected to be aggressive, starting a drive at its own 31.
Three plays later, a Jarvis Holley pass found Jon Okoye for a short gain. But a pair of Grayson defenders quickly converged and knocked the ball loose from Okoye, which the Rams recovered and set up their explosive offense with one more chance before the half.
Grayson (3-0, 1-0) immediately went to work as quarterback Nick Schuessler went deep to Callen Hightower for 42 yards and a first down at the Archer 7.
After a pair of incompletions, Schuessler found Marcus Lindquist across the middle of the end zone on a scoring strike with just six seconds remaining.
That gave Grayson a 21-0 lead heading into the half and seemed to take the wind out of the Archer sails.
After Archer's opening drive of the second half stalled near midfield, Grayson took over after a Tigers' punt and drove 89 yards in 12 plays -- capped off by Schuessler's 1-yard sneak into the end zone and a 27-0 Rams' lead with 2:50 left in the third quarter.
That essentially put the game away as both teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Archer's first score in two years against Grayson came on quarterback Jarvis Holley's 1-yard run to complete an 11-play, 79-yard drive and the Rams finishing the scoring on Devin Gillespie's 1-yard run.
Schuessler finished the game 11 of 19 for 135 yards. Gillespie led the Rams' rushing attack with 82 yards on 12 carries while Callen Hightower had four catches for 82 yards.
As a team, Grayson piled 398 total yards, but turned it over two times on interceptions and twice on fumbles.
Archer was led by Holley's 9 of 15 night throwing the ball for 111 yards, including four of those throws going to Will Kone for 70 yards. But the Tigers could only scratch out 47 yards on the ground and 158 total yards against a stubborn Grayson defense.