LOGANVILLE — It took all four quarters and some extra time, but the nationally ranked Grayson football team avoided a Senior Night upset and fought off a major challenge from visiting Mill Creek in a 20-13 win Friday night.
In a battle where both defenses dominated, the Ram offense finally came out on top in double overtime after scoring just six points in regulation.
“I think when you go through games like that, it’s more about the learning experience for everybody … for us as coaches and especially for our players,” Grayson head coach Adam Carter said. “We had a couple kids in overtime and late in the fourth quarter that found a way to make some plays, so that was a positive. We’ll find a way to build off of it and we have a bunch of stuff to fix, but it’s much better to come out with a win and it be ugly than a loss.”
Mill Creek got the ball first in the opening overtime and made quick work of the Ram defense, needing only three plays to find the end zone. The Hawks scored the game’s first touchdown when Hayden Clark placed a beautiful fade ball right into the hands of Brendan Jenkins in the back corner of the end zone.
The Rams proved to be unfazed, though, as they only needed three plays to pull even at 13 on the ensuing possession. Clemson commit Phil Mafah bowled through the Hawk defensive line from a yard out to force a double overtime.
Starting with the ball again, Grayson scored in just two plays. This time it was through the air as quarterback DeYon Cannon hit Jaden Smith on a slant route to take the lead for the first and last time of the night.
“(I had) one-on-one outside man coverage (and I) set him up outside,” Smith said. “I knew my quarterback had time in the pocket, so I took my time and I got underneath him. Once I caught it, I just had to hold onto it and that was that.”
A last-gasp Mill Creek (2-2) heave to the end zone was denied by Grayson on fourth down of the ensuing possessions and the Rams (5-0) prevailed to stay unbeaten.
“I saw a tremendous game,” Mill Creek head coach Josh Lovelady said. “I saw a tremendous fight by two teams in all three phases of the game. I’m just so proud of my kids. We’ve been banged up, we’ve got several kids injured, a lot of kids stepped up tonight. I’m just proud of them. We just came up a little short against a good Grayson team.”
Following a scoreless first quarter where they dominated field position, the Hawks struck first in the second quarter when kicker Brock Pellegrino capped off a 57-yard drive with a 31-yard field goal.
The Rams didn’t hesitate to respond, though, as a 72-yard booming run from Mafah set up a 34-yard Jimmy Gonzalez field goal to even the score on the following drive.
Neither team threatened to score again until the waning seconds of the first half, when Grayson attempted its second field goal to take the lead. True to the theme of the game, though, the offense was unable to capitalize on points as Mill Creek’s Zekai Wimby blocked the kick as time expired in the second quarter.
It was more of the same for both offenses in the third quarter as the only points came on an Mill Creek field goal, a 21-yarder from Pellegrino. The Hawks conducted an 11-play, 69-yard drive that featured three defensive penalties to regain the lead.
Following a slew of punts and field position battles, it wasn’t until the final minutes of the fourth quarter that things began to get interesting again.
Facing a daunting fourth-and-16 on the Mill Creek 20-yard line, Grayson decided not to attempt to tie the game with a field goal and go for it on fourth down. An errant pass on the following play turned the ball over to the Hawks. Just three snaps later, though, the Rams earned one final chance of survival when defensive back Tyler Pugh intercepted a pass over the middle of the field on the Mill Creek 39-yard line.
A few short completions to Jamal Haynes and Smith set up a 26-yard field goal by Gonzalez to tie the game again with less than a minute remaining and send the game to overtime.
It took some work in the extra periods, but Grayson emerged with a victory.
“It feels great to win on Senior Night,” Smith said. “I’m just glad we got the win, regardless of the score.”
GRAYSON 20, MILL CREEK 13
Grayson 0 3 0 3 7 7 — 20
Mill Creek 0 3 3 0 7 0 — 13
Mill Creek: Brock Pellegrino 32 FG, 6:29
Grayson: Jimmy Gonzalez 34 FG, 2:16
Mill Creek: Pellegrino 21 FG, 3:07
Grayson: Gonzalez 26 FG, :55
Mill Creek: Brendan Jenkins 19 pass from Hayden Clark (Pellegrino kick)
Grayson: Phil Mafah 1 run (Gonzalez kick)
Grayson: Jaden Smith 9 pass from DeYon Cannon (Gonzalez kick)