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Grayson pulls away to beat rival Brookwood, earn top seed

Staff Photo: John Bohn Grayson linebacker Dustin Jackson (56) blocks an extra point kick attempt by Brookwood place kicker Brandon Morrow (90) during the second quarter of Friday's game. The score of the game after this blocked extra point was 14-13 in favor of Grayson.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Grayson linebacker Dustin Jackson (56) blocks an extra point kick attempt by Brookwood place kicker Brandon Morrow (90) during the second quarter of Friday's game. The score of the game after this blocked extra point was 14-13 in favor of Grayson.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Grayson running back Robert Nkemdiche (1) rushes toward the goal line, to be stopped short by Brookwood cornerback Ky Priester (11) during the second quarter of Friday's game. Nkemdiche scored a touchdown on the next play.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Brookwood quarterback Zach Moon (14) works toward the sideline while being pursued by Grayson outside linebacker Cody Azar (58) during the second quarter of Friday's game. Grayson linebacker Jake Mueller (33) is at left.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Brookwood strong safety Nick Aube (10) gets a hold of Grayson running back Robert Nkemdiche's jersey as Aube and teammate cornerback Garrett Reynolds (17) tackle Nkemdiche during the first half.

LOGANVILLE -- When the final horn sounded, Grayson head coach Mickey Conn knew that his team would be home for the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs next week. He just didn't know if it would be as a No. 2 seed or the Region 8-AAAAAA champion.

With Grayson's 42-13 win over Brookwood on Friday night, Conn needed help from Snellville with a South Gwinnett win over Parkview to take the region title.

With that game starting 30 minutes later than normal, it took awhile for the news to come in, but South's 16-14 win over the Panthers finally settled the dust in the region race, putting Grayson in as the No. 1 seed, while Brookwood finished the season in the fourth spot.

"I'm proud of how our kids didn't panic tonight," Conn said. "We needed a game like this before the playoffs."

Brookwood (6-4, 5-3) stayed close in the first half, getting touchdowns in the passing game from Zach Moon to Ky Priester and Jamaal Cole, but the Ram defense shut down the Bronco passing game in the final two quarters to pull away for the win.

"(Brookwood) came out and played well in the first half but we weathered that storm," Conn said. "They got a couple of home runs but we made some adjustments and started getting some turnovers."

Moon hooked up with Priester on a 41-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to tie the game at 7-7 and later connected with Cole on a 68-yard strike to bring the score to 14-13 late in the period.

But the Rams (9-1, 6-1) responded with another score on an 8-yard TD run from Robert Nkemdiche in the closing seconds of the first half to go up 21-13, giving the Rams momentum in the second half it wouldn't relinquish.

"After that first half, we sort of fell apart," Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. "We had a couple of big turnovers and that sort of took the wind out of our sails. We're going to have to quit making those kind of mistakes if we want to play more than one game in the playoffs."

Moon, who was nearly flawless in the first half with 172 yards and two TDs on 7 of 9 attempts, was the polar opposite in the second half. Of his first six passes in the final two quarters, four were incomplete with the other two being intercepted.

The first of those picks was by Cory Schaeffer, who returned the ball to the Brookwood 14-yard line. That set up a short three-play scoring drive, capped off by quarterback David McTier's one-yard TD sneak.

On the ensuing possession, Kasey Gaines picked off Moon's pass and returned it 45 yards for the score, essentially putting the game out of reach with a 35-13 lead.

Grayson's running game continued its punishing work, racking up 291 yards, led by 106 yards on 13 carries from David Fennell. Nkemdiche added 71 yards and one TD on 10 carries, while Wayne Gallman and Jordan Germany each pitched in with one TD run each.

McTier, who finished with two TDs on quarterback sneaks, also added 124 yards on 7 of 11 passing.

"I thought we dominated the line tonight but I really felt that McTier was the difference," Conn said. "He made some nice plays with his legs and gave us some good reads in the passing game."

Grayson will open the playoffs next week at home against Wheeler, while Brookwood will be on the road to play Lassiter.