The Parkview Panthers charge the field after breaking through their banner prior to the football game against Norcross in Lilburn Friday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Last season’s Region 8-AAAAAA kickoff was an eye-opener for the Grayson football team.
The Rams were the defending state champions, nationally ranked and cruised to a 2-0 non-region record.
Then they traveled to Parkview where they turned the ball over five times and lost 22-7. It was Parkview’s first win over Grayson since 2005.
“All the stuff from a year ago has no bearing this year,” Parkview coach Cecil Flowe said. “Both teams have to line up and play.”
After the Parkview loss, Grayson won its next eight games to claim the Region 8 championship and reach the state playoffs.
The Rams are hoping the Parkview game will be another turning point when they host the Panthers on Friday.
“Right now we’re trying to piece things together,” Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. “It’s definitely something we remember.”
Grayson is 0-2 for the first time since 2006, but a win tonight in the region opener will get the team pointed in the right direction again.
“This is where it starts. I know we’re excited to play again,” Conn said. “It’s a big game, we’re excited.”
Grayson has been outscored 56-6 in its first two games. But in its defense they have had some pretty good competition in No. 3-ranked Colquitt County and No. 1-ranked North Gwinnett.
“They’ve been thrown to the wolves and played two of the best teams in the state,” Conn said. “Those two defensive lines are incredible.”
Grayson began the Colquitt game with an interception returned for a touchdown. Against North, the offense had two turnovers (interception, fumble) returned for scores and allowed two safeties.
So needless to say, ball security was a focal point during the Rams’ bye last week.
“I would like to see us compete and be in the ball game,” Conn said. “Our kids have given great effort, but we have to eliminate the turnovers. That’s been our Achilles heel.”
It’s a similar story for Parkview. The Panthers are 0-2 after facing a tough non-region schedule, losing to No. 5-ranked Peachtree Ridge and No. 7-ranked and defending state champion Norcross.
The Panthers were tied with Peachtree Ridge in the fourth quarter before they threw two interceptions returned for touchdowns. They did a much better job holding onto the ball against Norcross, but weren’t able to score until the fourth quarter when they were down 21 points. The Panthers didn’t attempt a pass until the fourth quarter.
“I was impressed with Parkview. The score is not indicative of the game. They are a tough football team and they play hard,” Conn said. “I saw some flashes of their offense. They have some skill kids that can run.”
Justis Rosser has been Parkview’s biggest offensive threat this season, rushing for 173 yards in two games.
“We have to manufacture something offensively. That’s our biggest hurdle right now,” Flowe said.
The Parkview defense has kept the Panthers in games. Linebacker John Patterson had nine tackles, one for loss and a sack last week, while Bryce Lewis made 10 tackles and Stephen Moye had nine stops.
“The defense has played well in both games,” Flowe said. “We have to have offensive production.”
Parkview’s offense will be without fullback Brandon Sullivan, a Georgia State commitment, who will be out with an injured back. Grayson gets offensive tackle Austin Hamilton back from an ankle injury.
“Now that we’re in region play, games get harder,” Flowe said. “You have to get better. A lot of it is attitude and effort.”
PARKVIEW at GRAYSON
Parkview Panthers (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Cecil Flowe
Last week: Lost to Norcross 21-7
Grayson Rams (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Mickey Conn
Last week: Had a bye
Last meeting: Parkview won 22-7 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.