Grayson surged into the top spot in the rankings after beating Marietta in the third week of the season. The Rams followed that with a two-touchdown win over Westlake.
Then came a bubble-bursting road trip to Colquitt County.
“We were out-coached and out-played and we didn’t handle the experience well,” head coach Adam Carter said bluntly. “The travel got to us a little bit and it was not a very good game on our part.
“After that, you hope that was a wake-up call for us. You beat Marietta and everyone tells you you’re the best in the state. We’ve played better since then and we’ll go in with a better plan.”
This trip to south Georgia has far more on the line. Grayson meets Lowndes, which ascended to No. 1 after shutting out Valdosta 24-0 midway though the season, in a quarterfinal rematch. Last year, Lowndes came to Loganville and beat the Rams 20-15.
Their one common opponent this season? Colquitt County, which was ousted by Parkview last week.
“It’s a big one,” said Carter, who is in his first year at Grayson. “They’re talented, well coached and the kids play extremely hard.”
Valdosta had the most success keeping Lowndes’ offense in check and that was 24 points. The Vikings are averaging just shy of 40 points per game.
“They are very dynamic when it comes to hitting the big play,” Carter said. “They have slot receivers and a running back who can absolutely fly. If you don’t have multiple people there to tackle, it’s unlikely to have one person bring them to the ground. It’s hard to wrangle those guys for a whole game.”
The defense is as physical as Carter can remember. He saw them play regularly during his time at Valdosta and Camden County.
“Their team speed is unlike anything we’ve seen this year,” Carter said. “It’ll take a really good effort to go down there and move the ball and get some big plays of our own.”
Lowndes hasn’t given up more than 21 points to any opponent and that was against Miami Northwestern (Fla.). The defense is averaging a stingy 8.1 points per game.
“We’ve got to match their speed out of the gate,” Carter said. “It’s going to take us all week to get ready. Sometimes it’s good to have a quick memory loss, but I did bring it up (the trip to Colquitt County on Tuesday at practice). I don’t want to harp on that, but also you do want to remember what happens when you go to a place like that. The travel is an experience all on its own.”