Parkview's Bradley Davis (32) celebrates a touchdown with his teammates Tra Malloy (71), Larry Veal (15) and Ronnie Bailey (56) during Friday's game against Grayson.
LILBURN -- A great defense can often get a football team out of any mess it gets itself into.
But not even Grayson's star-studded defensive unit could save the Rams from themselves -- or a hungry, motivated Parkview team -- in their Region 8-AAAAAA opener.
The Panthers took advantage of four Grayson turnovers -- including a pair of fumble recoveries by Justis Rosser-- and 109 yards in penalties, plus two touchdown runs by Chris Carson to upset the state's -- and nation's -- top-ranked team 22-7 Friday night at the Big Orange Jungle.
The numbers don't even begin to tell the story. Parkview (2-1, 1-0) was outgained in total yardage 225-140 and had just seven first downs to 11 for Grayson (2-1, 0-1).
But the host Panthers showed plenty of poise and opportunism to not only end the Rams' 17-game winning streak, but also give the Parkview program what head coach Cecil Flowe called, "the biggest win we've had around here in five or six years."
"They came to play," Flowe said. "They fought 48 minutes (Friday) night. I'm proud of them. My kids came to play. ... It's one of those (games) where everyone on the field contributed. It's awesome.
"(Grayson) gave us some opportunities, and we were able to capitalize on them."
Grayson took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in seven plays, though the Rams may have gotten one extra one as confusion after a sideline warning may have turned what should've been fourth down into third down.
Aares McCall was then stopped short of the first-down stick, only to be turned back 11 yards on a holding penalty.
On the next snap, David McTier dropped back and fired a strike to Cory Schaeffer, who bobbled the ball, but hauled it in for 45-yard touchdown, giving the Rams a 7-0 lead with 8:41 left in the first quarter.
But what the officials may or may not have given Grayson, the Rams gave back twice over in the remainder of the half.
A bad shotgun snap on third down was pounced on by Rosser, giving the Panthers possession on the Grayson 7-yard line.
It took five more plays and a pass interference penalty, put Parkview finally cashed in when Carson dove into the end zone from a yard out.
David Kamara sped in from the left end to block Tyler Stephenson's extra point attempt, keeping Grayson in front 7-6 with 1:09 left in the quarter.
However, after finally finding the end zone following two straight weeks without a touchdown, the Panthers had momentum -- and more importantly, confidence.
"When we got our first touchdown of the season, that's what really got us hyped up," said Rosser, who also finished with 44 yards on five carries on offense, in addition to his defensive heroics. "It was great."
Grayson then threatened to take the lead late in the second quarter, marching 77 yards in 17 plays and eating up 8:32 off the clock.
And on second and goal from the 3, it looked like Robert Nkemdiche was headed into the end zone to extend Grayson's lead.
But a Parkview defender got a helmet on the football to knock it loose into the end zone, where Turshard Kimble-Brinson recovered it to give the Panthers possession on the 20 and keep the deficit just one point.
Still, Grayson held the 7-6 lead into intermission and looked like it had gained momentum back after the defense forced a quick three and out on the first possession of the second half.
But the Panthers got the ball right back when Micah Finley recovered a muffed punt return on the Grayson 38.
While Parkview wasn't able to convert that miscue into points, they got still another chance after holding for a three and out, and the got the ball at the Grayson 29 after a 19-yard punt, plus two 15-yard penalties on Grayson.
Six plays later, Rob Youngblood hooked up with Mac Marshall for a 12-yard scoring stike to give Parkview its first lead of the game at 12-7 following a missed two-point conversion with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
Another 30 yards in penalties against Grayson on a single play on Parkview's next possession put the Panthers in business once again as the fourth quarter started.
This time, it resulted in a 43-yard field goal by Stephenson to push the lead to 15-7 with 7:40 remaining.
Grayson tried to rally, but one more sequence less than four minutes later helped Parkview seal the Rams' fate.
It looked like McTier had hooked up with Korey Anderson on a key 10-yard completion for a first down at the Parkview 45.
But Rosser recovered in time to rip the ball out of Anderson's hands, and return it 19 yards to the Grayson 36.
"(Anderson) beat me across the field," Rosser admitted. "But I just stayed on it and didn't give up on the play. When he caught it, he turned right into me, so I just grabbed it right out of his hands."
Four plays later, Carson, who finished with 61 yards on 25 carries, barged into the end zone for his second 1-yard TD of the game, extending the Parkview lead to a whopping 22-7 with 3:47 to play.
But it was the Rosser steal that Flowe pointed to as the key play in that drive, and the game.
"That was a game-changer," Flowe said. "That helped win the football game, that one play. ... He competed. That's what I liked. He was competing."The play may have also symbolized the evening to Grayson coach Mickey Conn, who said his team learned a hard lesson Friday night.
"The reality is, you can't turn the ball over four times," said Conn, whose Rams came into the game ranked No. 1 not only in the Associated Press' state poll, but in the ESPN and Rivals.com national polls. "It's a wake-up call. Four turnovers. You cannot expect to win."