SNELLVILLE — If one thing was apparent from Shiloh’s first major test following a 6-0 start in Thursday night’s football game against Grayson, it is that the Generals still have a lot of work to do.
It was also quite clear that the No. 4 state-ranked Rams were the far more confident team in a big-time atmosphere by using a big second-quarter surge to roll to a 45-7 win at Shiloh Community Stadium.
C.J. Dixon had a huge night, completing 14 of 19 passes for an even 300 yards and four TDs, with Jaden Smith (3-87, 2 TDs) and Ryan King (3-71, 2 TDs) being his favorite target as the Rams (5-1, 1-0) rolled up 479 yards of total offense and pounced on numerous Shiloh (6-1, 1-1) mistakes to hold the Generals to just 151 total yards and hand them their first loss of the season.
“That’s a good football team, and they’ve had a lot of success early on,” Grayson coach Adam Carter said of Shiloh. “I told our kids, ‘Hey, we’ve got to come out swinging. They’re a confident group, they’re ready to play.’ It was a big atmosphere and it was a big game, and our kids responded well.”
Grayson certainly responded with plenty of poise, while an amped-up Shiloh team simply couldn’t get out of its own way in the early going.
The Generals were assessed five penalties, most of them either false starts by the offense or encroachments by the defense, before the game was even first five minutes old, and that doesn’t include one or two more than were declined.
It was part of a first half in which they were flagged 12 times for 112 yards, and Shiloh finished the game with 18 infractions for 157 yards.
Throw in a couple of errant shotgun or long snaps, a dropped ball here and there and the Generals couldn’t quite find the rhythm and confidence they had in their school record-setting start.
“Those penalties just killed us,” Shiloh coach Tino Ierulli said. “We just put ourselves in a hole, and we couldn’t get out. … That’s the No. 4 team in the state. We were hanging with them great in the beginning, and then the wheels just fell off and we couldn’t recover.”
None of the Shiloh mistakes were more costly than the one that negated the game’s first big break early in the first quarter.
After Lafayette Gurvin Jr. lost the ball at the Shiloh 22, Generals defensive tackle Jalen Goolsby scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 78 yards, escorted by most of his teammates on the line for an apparent score for the early lead.
The score was nullified by a block in the back penalty, though Shiloh still had a first down at the Grayson 35.
However, another false start penalty turned what would’ve been third and 6 at the 31 into third and 11, and the Rams defense stifled Arthur Rodgers Jr. for just a 1-yard gain, and forced the General to punt.
Still, it looked like Shiloh was in good shape after Myles Lewis pinned Grayson back at its own 1-yard line with a 39-yard punt.
But that’s when Dixon and the Rams aerial assault got warmed up.
After Gurvin picked up a first down with two runs for 12 yards, the Illinois-committed senior quarterback misfired on a pass to Jamal Haynes on a slant pattern.
He wouldn’t throw another incompletion until 12 passes later, well into the second half.
“Well, (offensive coordinator Aaron) Nance, we talked about it and I said, ‘Coach, we’ve got to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands,’” Carter said. “We’ve got to let our kids play. We told them, ‘Go do your thing. Be confident.’ … And we’ve got some good ball players.
“(Dixon) and I had a conversation before we came out here, and I told him, ‘We’re going to let you play ball a little bit. You’ve got to be confident. You’ve got to be smart and take care of the ball.’”
He led Grayson what turned in to a nine-play, 99-yard drive keyed by his own 37-yard scramble and three completions, including a 7-yard TD pass to King to give the Rams a 7-0 lead with 2:37 left in the first quarter.
Shiloh moved into Grayson territory with his next possession and Lewis pinned the Rams deep again at their own 4 after the drive stalled just past midfield.
But once again, a quick run by Gurvin gave Grayson breathing room for Dixon to go to work and it took the Rams just three plays to cover the required 96 yards.
Once again, Dixon hit King, with the Georgia Tech commit leaping over good coverage to haul in a 32-yard completion at the Grayson 42.
Then he found Gurvin in the flat, and the junior did the rest by outracing the Shiloh secondary for a 58-yard TD that extended the Rams’ lead to 14-0 with 10:30 left in the first half.
Shiloh came back with its best drive of the night, with Arthur Rodgers Jr. busting off a 15-yard run, with a 15-yard facemask penalty tacked on, and Vince Goffney coming up with three of his eight completions on the night for 35 yards.
The final 18 of those yards came on a slant to Darrell McDowell, who completed the seven-play, 73-yard march with a touchdown that pulled the General to within 14-7 with 8:16 left in the first half.
But once again, Dixon and Grayson had a quick answer, and this time, the Rams only had to go 86 yards, and it took them just four plays to cover the distance.
King came up with another highlight reel catch for a 38-yard gain, and Dixon zipped a quick pass with surgical precision to Jaden Smith, who sped 36 yards for the score that extended the Grayson lead to 21-7 with 5:41 left in half.
That lead became 23-7 when an errant snap on a punt forced Myles Lewis to have to fall on a fumble in the end zone for a safety at the 3:11 mark.
And after taking over at the Shiloh 45 when the ensuing free kick went out of bounds, Dixon was at it again, completing three more passes, including a 13-yard scoring strike to Smith that made the score 30-7 with 1:31 left in the half.
Darius Daniels then applied the exclamation point to the Rams’ run of 24 unanswered points with a 32-yard pick six with 1:11 left, sending Grayson into intermission with a 38-7 lead following Gurvin’s two-point conversion run.
The Shiloh defense was able to show much more poise in the second half, allowing just one score, but the damage was already done.
However, Ierulli is confident the lessons learned from the game will benefit the Generals in the long run.
“I’m not making any excuses,” Ierulli said. “(Grayson) beat us, and that’s going to happen. But we’ve got to clean up a bunch. … This is probably one of the best things that could’ve happened to us. (Now) they understand what it’s going to take to get to where we set our goal for. They know they’re going to have to face teams like this. … We’ll bounce back. Well be all right.”
GRAYSON 45, SHILOH 7
Grayson 7 31 0 7 ― 45
Shiloh 0 7 0 0 ― 7
Grayson: Ryan King 7 pass from C.J. Dixon (Garwood Collins kick), 2:37
Grayson: Lafayette Gurvin Jr. 58 pass from Dixon (Collins kick), 10:30
Shiloh: Darrell McDowell 18 pass from Vince Goffney (Myles Lewis kick), 8:16
Grayson: Jaden Smith 36 pass from Dixon (Collins kick), 5:41
Grayson: Safety. Punter tackled in end zone after low snap, 3:11
Grayson: J. Smith 13 pass from Dixon (Collins kick), 1:31
Grayson: Darius Daniels 32 INT return (Gurvin run), 1:11
Grayson: Jonathan Maisonove 10 run (Collins kick), 7:50
Rushing — Grayson: Maisonove 13-72, Dixon 1-37, Gurvin 9-32, Jamal Haynes 4-24, Dean Jeffrey 5-18, TEAM 1-(-4). Shiloh: Arthur Rodgers Jr. 20-71, Myles Lewis 1-28, Dakota Thomas 2-13, Vince Goffney 1-1, TEAM 2-(-29).
Passing — Grayson: Dixon 14-19-0, 300. Shiloh: Goffney 8-14-1, 67.
Receiving — Grayson: J. Smith 3-87, King 3-71, Gurvin 2-65, Haynes 2-26, Beau DeBerry 2-23, Jeremi Holmes 2-22. Shiloh: Thomas 4-20, McDowell 3-40, Antonio Meeks 1-7.