Staff Photo: John Bohn South Gwinnett's Bernard Morrison (1) runs the ball up field during the game against Shiloh earlier this season.
SOUTH GWINNETT AT GRAYSON
South Gwinnett Comets (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: John Small
Record: 5-1, 4-0 region
Last week: Had a byeGrayson Rams (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Mickey Conn
Record: 6-1, 4-1 region
Last week: Beat Berkmar 62-0
Last meeting: Grayson won 40-0 last year
Directions to Grayson High School: From I-85, go east on Sugarloaf Parkway to Ga. Highway 20 and turn right. Proceed through Grayson and turn right on Hope Hollow Road. School is immediately on the left
South Gwinnett has one of the more prolific offenses in the county this year.
The Comets average 37.7 points a game. They put 482 yards of total offense every week.
Quarterback Jordan Ramey is the county's leading passer. Four receivers are among the county leaders in receptions and running back Josh Boyd is in the top 10 in rushing.
Needless to say, the Comets have firepower and lots of it.
"They present a lot skill players," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said.
South's offense will face the toughest defense since a Week 1 loss to Norcross when it travels to rival Grayson on Friday night.
The Rams' defense is made up of a slew of future college football players. The defending state champions are allowing 10.14 points per game this season and have not allowed a point in the last two weeks.
It's your classic battle of high-scoring offense vs. stingy defense.
"Our goal is to score more points than they do," South head coach John Small said. "I don't care how many yards we get or points we score. I'll take 1-0."
South (5-1, 4-0 Region 8-AAAAAA) opened the year with a 35-20 loss to state-ranked Norcross, but has reeled off five straight victories. Only one of those wins was against a playoff team from a year ago and those five teams have a combined record of 9-23 this season.
"It doesn't matter who you play in this region, they are all tough," Small said.
The Comets control their own fate for the playoffs with four games left in the season. Win all four and they are region champs, lose all four and they are out of the playoffs. Anything in between will secure a postseason spot. But it starts Friday at Grayson, which humbled the Comets 40-0 last year. It was the first time since 2007 the Comets' offense had been shut out.
"Anytime you get a chance to play the defending state champs, it's a great measuring stick for your program," Small said.
South's offensive success is centered around Ramey, who missed all but one game last year with an injury.
"It starts up front with our offensive line," Small said. "You give Ramey time and he's got some guys that can do things with the ball in their hands."
L.J. Gainey leads the team in catches (23) and receiving yards (461). Coray Keel leads the group with six TDs, while Bernard Morrison and Tyrone Atchison highlight the group.
"He has some really good receivers to throw to," Conn said. "He'll be very elusive and he'll throw it. We're going to have to get to him."
Grayson (6-1, 4-1) has six defensive players committed to college programs, including three along the defensive line. The most prolific is Clemson commitment Robert Nkemdiche, who is rated the No. 1 college prospect in the country.
"They have a lot of playmakers," Small said. "It starts with Nkemdiche, but the other front linemen are pretty good."
Tennessee commitment Zach Barnes leads the team in sacks with six and splits time with Jack Banda, an Arizona commitment. The defense also features defensive backs Kasey Gaines (Penn State) and David Kamara (Clemson), linebacker Wayne Gallman (Clemson), and Division I prospect Ryan Carter.
"They are playing with more passion," Conn said. "I'm sure losing had a lot to do with it."
Grayson was ranked No. 1 in the country until it lost to Parkview in the region opener. The Rams have reeled off four-straight wins since the loss and have outscored opponents 204-34.
"Since they lost a game, they are playing pissed off football," Small said. "I think it will be a great challenge."
Now Grayson's defense will be tested against a South offense that likes to pick up yardage in big chunks and is riding a hot streak.
"Our expectation every year is to win every ball game," Small said.