December 4, 2011
Editor’s Note: Brandon Brigman, a sports writer for the Daily Post, writes a blog every Monday called “The Blitz.”
Well here we are. The final week of the high school football season.
We all expected Buford to be playing this week, but the Wolves needed a little wake-up call to reach the state finals again.
Grayson was one of the early-season favorites to reach the state championship game and the Rams secured their first title berth on Friday.
Buford will play Calhoun in the Class AA state championship on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in the Georgia Dome, while Grayson will play Walton on Saturday at 8 p.m.
The Georgia Dome has become a familiar spot for Buford and Grayson. The Wolves have ended their season there the last three years with state titles. Prior to that, Buford won six straight semifinal games in the Dome.
Buford has never lost in the Dome and is 8-4 in state championship games.
Another state title seems inevitable, considering Buford's success this year and it's finals opponent.
Buford has dominated nearly every games this year, winning by an average of 38.5 points and usually playing its second team in the fourth quarter. The only exception was Friday's 28-13 win over Carver-Columbus. Buford trailed 13-7 at halftime.
The Wolves will face Calhoun for the fourth straight year in the state finals. The Yellow Jackets have appeared to close the gap each year. They lost by 24 points in 2008, lost by three in 2009 and took Buford to overtime last year before losing by seven.
I think Calhoun can make it another close game, but I still think Buford wins a state record fifth straight title. The only thing that seems to slow down Buford is Buford. The Wolves had three fumbles in the first half against Carver and are constantly hit by penalties.
By the way, everyone complains about Buford's schedule. Has anyone looked at Calhoun's? The Yellow Jackets didn't play anyone in the regular season that won a playoff game and only two teams had a winning record. Buford at least played four teams that won playoff games, including Class AAA semifinalist Gainesville. Like a lot of people, I'd still like to see Buford play a Class AAAAA school to see how they stack up. Preferably another Gwinnett school. But the competition they've faced this year is still pretty good.
Grayson will end its season where it began in the Georgia Dome. The Rams are 3-1 all-time in the Georgia Dome, all Corky Kell games.
The Rams will try to become the fourth different Gwinnett AAAAA school to win a state title, joining Brookwood, Parkview and Peachtree Ridge.
They'll face a Walton squad that is playing in its first state final as well. Cobb County hasn't produced a state champion since Marietta in 1967.
The Raiders have the state's top running back in Tyren Jones. The junior has rushed for 2,300 yards this season and has 38 touchdowns. Their best defensive player is cornerback Zach Blaylock, who has 11 interceptions, but injured his elbow in the win over Lassiter.
Grayson has arguably the state's best player in defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. The junior has 17 sacks and also sees a lot of time at running back on offense. He's scored 16 touchdowns this season.
When Grayson faced fourth-and-two in the final minutes of Friday's game against Colquitt County, I thought for sure they'd give the ball to Nkemdiche. Instead the Rams three a pass and got a pass interference calls.
Here's Grayson head coach Mickey Conn's explanation on not throwing it and not giving it to Nkemdiche.
"Nkemdiche is Superman, but you know what he can't take on 11 guys," Conn said. "They covered it better than I thought they would. But their guy was holding our receiver all the way down the field and we were able to get the pass interference and that made the difference."
It's been fun to watch the gradual rise of the Grayson program over the last five years. They've accomplished just about everything you can think of, except a state championship.
I think they finally get that state title, but it's going to be another last minute winner for the Rams.
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