Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Grayson Aares McCall (6) runs the ball down field as McEachern defender David Phillips (24) makes a tackle during high school football action of the Corky Kell Classic between Grayson and McEachern at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Saturday.
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ATLANTA -- The last time Grayson played football in the Georgia Dome, it made easy work of Walton in the state championship game.
The Rams got a tougher challenge in Saturday's Corky Kell Classic against McEachern.
Ryan Carter's interception and Jay Strickland's fumble recovery set up fourth-quarter scores as Grayson pulled away for a 31-12 win.
"It's nice to get a game like that and come away with a win," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said.
Grayson has a 16-game winning streak dating back to last year's title run. The Rams will host Miami Central in a televised game on ESPN on Friday. Grayson is ranked No. 1 in the nation by ESPN and Miami Central is No. 1 according to USA Today.
"They're going to be a great challenge," Carter said. "I'm ready to see what they are about."
Grayson had a tough time with McEachern early on in Saturday's game. The Rams defense gave up a 79-yard touchdown run on the Indians' second offensive play.
"We have a lot of work to do on defense," Conn said. "But at the same time this is a new team and we have to find the leaders on defense to really lead us."
Conn may have found some leaders in Carter and Strickland. Carter, a Division I prospect, had a 77-yard interception return in the fourth quarter as McEachern threatened to make it a one-possession game.
"I was hoping to get in the end zone," Carter said.
Alex Louthan, a transfer from Florida, booted a 26-yard field goal to make it 24-12 with 4:20 left in the game.
Strickland recovered a McEachern fumble on the next series. On fourth-and-one and the McEachern defense focused on Robert Nkemdiche in the backfield, Jordan Germany took a sweep around the right and walked in the end zone for a 34-yard score. The touchdown put Grayson ahead 31-12 to seal the win.
"I like the way we ran the football. Our offensive line and running backs came off the football," Conn said. "My hat is off to the offensive line. They've been taking a lot of criticism and feeling the heat. That's the thing we lost off last year's team and that offensive line came out here and took control of the line of scrimmage."
Grayson ran 54 plays and 53 were runs as it racked up 319 yards on the ground. David Fennell and Jordan Germany each rushed for 78 yards, Aares McCall had 65 yards, Wayne Gallman rushed for 59 and Robert Nkemdiche added 41.
Quarterback David McTier, a transfer from GAC, threw two passes all game. One was incomplete and the other was a 39-yard toss to Cory Schaeffer that was negated by an illegal man downfield.
"They gave you so many different looks up front," McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. "Not having film on them this year, we weren't sure who their tight end was. It took us a couple of series to make adjustments based on who they were. They had tackles at tight end and all that kind of stuff. Once we made adjustments and knew who they were, we played pretty well."
Grayson opened the game with scoring drives on its first two possessions. Wayne Gallman scored on a 16-yard run, but McEachern came right back. Quarterback Tymashian Clemons had a 79-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion failed and Grayson led 7-6. Clemons was the team's leading rusher with 108 yards and was 9 of 16 passing for 102 yards.
"That quarterback they have is extremely talented," Conn said. "I thought he did a great job."
The Rams came back with an 11-play scoring drive finished by Nkemdiche's two-yard touchdown run.
McEachern's Josh Ohanu returned a punt 27 yards to the 14-yard line. Clemons' seven-yard touchdown was called back for holding and Kasey Gaines blocked Dennis Dominquez's 30-yard field goal attempt to end the scoring threat.
"We came out slow in the first half," Carter said. "It didn't look like the same defense in the first half as the second half. The tempo was higher in the second half."
Nkemdiche fumbled on Grayson's next possession and McEachern capitalized with a score. Chris Okeh caught a 10-yard TD pass from Clemons and the two-point conversion failed again to make it 14-12 at the half.
Grayson scored on its first possession of the second half on a one-yard TD run by McTier to make it 21-12.
The Rams threatened to score again, but McCall fumbled at the 11-yard line. It was the third lost fumble of the game for the Rams.
"That was three opportunities we had to score and we turned the ball over," Conn said. "All three of them really killed us. We're fortunate to win the ball game with three turnovers."
The turnover didn't cost the Rams as Carter came up with his interception to end McEachern's drive and help put the game away.
"That's a great team we just got through playing," Conn said. "You're going to see that this season as it gets going."