LOGANVILLE — Considering it had not even played a preseason scrimmage yet, Grayson’s football team couldn’t have asked much more of dominating performance in its 2018 opener against Tucker.
The Rams dominated nearly every facet of the game in a 48-7 victory Saturday night before an appreciative crowd at Grayson Community Stadium, as well as a national television audience.
Jonathan Halyard ran for a game-high 110 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries, while quarterback J’Kori Jones accounted for 168 yards of total offense as Grayson (1-0) outgained Tucker (0-2) by a 367-58 clip, and earned 19 first downs to the Tigers’ three.
“Our kids have definitely responded to every challenge we’ve put before them,” Grayson head coach Christian Hunnicutt said. “I can’t say enough about our kids and how resilient they are and how focused they are. … We ask our kids to perform at a high level, and our kids responded.”
Grayson established its dominance from the first possession of the game by marching 72 yards in 11 plays and taking 4:09 off the clock.
Jones completed 4 of 7 passes during the drive, including capping it with a 15-yard scoring strike to Ryan King to put the Rams up 6-0 with 7:39 left in the first quarter.
While Grayson had some early issues with its kicking game, an extra point that bounced off the upright and a snap that sailed over the holder’s head on the point after another score, special teams did have its moment in between those two miscues.
Tyler Hughes bolted up the middle to block a Tucker punt attempt, allowing Marvin Smith to pounce on the loose ball for a touchdown to make the Rams’ lead 12-0 with 5:22 left in the opening frame.
The only other negative for Grayson in the first half came after senior Ronald Thompkins fell to the turf at the end of a 22-yard gain late in the quarter, and he needed help getting off the field with an injury to his left knee.
The Nebraska-committed running back did not return, but Halyard came on in relief and the Grayson running game didn’t miss a beat.
The senior ran three times for the final 16 yards of an eight-play, 51-yard drive, the last run from 6 yards out, to expand the Rams’ lead to 20-0 following Jones’ two-point pass to Jamal Haynes.
“Ronald’s a great player,” Halyard said of Thompkins, who had run for 51 yards on five carries before being injured. “I love him. That’s my brother. … So I’m going to try my best to pick my brother up. We’ve been working very hard at practice the last three weeks, even though we didn’t have a scrimmage.
“We really let loose (Saturday) night. I’m happy for my brothers. We’ve got to get ready for the next game coming up.”
Meanwhile, the Grayson defense kept the pressure on throughout the game with a team effort, limiting Tucker to just two plays that gained more than 2 yards in the first half, including seven for negative yardage.
In fact, the Tigers didn’t cross midfield until 5:08 left in the third quarter, and didn’t earn a first down until the next-to-last play of that period.
According to linebacker Owen Pappoe, who also scored an offensive touchdown on a 1-yard run less than two minutes into the second quarter, the key was being able to handle Tucker’s misdirection in the running game, and in particular, shutting down running back Tyler Hughey, who was stifled for minus-2 yards on six carries.
“We knew a lot of their big plays came from (Hughey),” the Auburn-committed senior said. “They like to run that counter, so that was a big emphasis for us in practice this week. Just watch (Hughey) on the cutback. We ate it up all game long.”
The Grayson offense then continued to eat up yardage and points, with Jones scoring on a 14-yard TD with 6:18 left in the first half to give the Rams a 34-0 lead heading into intermission.
Halyard then busted off a 50-yard TD run in the first two minutes of the third quarter, while Jones, who finished the night 11 of 21 for 142 yards and 26 yards on the ground, finished his night with his second TD pass, a 29-yard completion to Kenyon Jackson to make the score 48-0 with 6:04 left in the third quarter.
Tucker finally got on the board when Latavius Jackson scored on a 13-yard touchdown run with 10:49 remaining.
GRAYSON 48, TUCKER 7
Tucker 0 0 0 7 ― 7
Grayson 20 14 14 0 ― 48
Grayson: Ryan King 15 pass from J’Kori Jones (kick failed), 7:39
Grayson: Marvin Smith blocked punt recovery in end zone (run failed), 5:22
Grayson: Jonathan Halyard 6 run (Jamal Haynes pass from Jones), 1:05
Grayson: Owen Pappoe 1 run (Kevin Sanchez kick), 10:41
Grayson: Jones 14 run (Garwood Collins kick), 6:18
Grayson: Halyard 50 run (Collins kick), 10:05
Grayson: Kenyon Jackson 29 pass from Jones (Sanchez kick), 6:04
Tucker: Latavius Johnson 13 run (Kyle Wright kick), 10:49
First downs 3 19
Rushes-yards 26-30 32-225
Passing yards 28 142
Att.-Comp.-INT 4-12-0 12-23-0
Fumbles-lost 4-1 2-0
Penalties-yards 5-30 10-80
Rushing — Tucker: Bryce Spradling 4-19, Johnson 7-14, Donny Harris 2-6, Vondariouos Brynton 1-2, David Davis 3-2, Trevon Ford 1-(-1), Tyler Hughley 6-(-2), TEAM 1-(-10). Grayson: Halyard 8-110, Ronald Thompkins 5-51, Jones 4-26, Lafayette Gurvin 6-23, Phil Mafah 4-18, C.J. Dixon 2-7, Jamal Haynes 1-4, Owen Pappoe 1-1, TEAM 1-(-15).
Passing — Tucker: Spradlng 3-10-0, 28; Ford 1-2-0, 0. Grayson: Jones 11-21-0, 142; Dixon 1-2-0, 0.
Receiving — Tucker: Zion Alexander 1-19, Miles Bowens 1-7, Johnson 1-2, Davis 1-0. Grayson: King 4-45, Haynes 3-42, Jackson 2-42, Josh Stinson 2-13, Mekhi Mews 1-0.