LOGANVILLE — Prove them wrong.
Grayson's players had heard for a long time. They didn't have the athletes to compete with a team like Marietta, one that is full of Division I athletes.
On Friday night at Grayson Community Stadium, the Rams proved their doubters wrong, scoring 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat the No. 5-nationally ranked Blue Devils 28-14 despite an almost two-hour lightning delay that hit at the end of halftime.
"We just kept hearing how we didn't have a chance," said running back Jamal Haynes, who finished with almost 300 all-purpose yards. "We've just focused on playing the game every week."
"This is just a great win for our kids and I'm proud to have been a part of it," said Grayson head coach Adam Carter. "We've talked to our kids about handling adversity and controlling the controllables. The kids stayed focused and the credit goes to them for keeping that focus during the delay."
After the Blue Devils tied the score at 14-14 on a Kimani Vidal three-yard run, the Rams went to work in the fourth quarter.
A third-down completion to Jamal Haynes from C.J. Dixon went for 42 yards as Haynes weaved through traffic, even reversing his field before being brought down at the Marietta 34. Then, four plays later on fourth down, Dixon found Haynes again, this time as Haynes had a step on the defender, reaching for the ball and striding into the end zone for a 29-yard scoring strike to give the Rams a 21-14 lead with 5:07 to go in the game.
After Marietta failed to get a first down on its next drive, Haynes again showed his speed, returning the punt 41 yards down to the Marietta 29.
From there, it was the LaFayette Gurvin Jr. show as he took the ball on the next six plays. Rushes of 9, 3, 9, 5 and 2 yards brought Rams down to the 1 and Gurvin took it in on the next play, giving the Rams a 28-14 lead with 1:45 to go in the game.
Marietta attempted to score quickly on its next drive, using a hook and ladder play that went for 34 yards. But two sacks thwarted that scoring opportunity and the clock ran out the Blue Devils and their No. 5 national ranking.
Grayson opened the game with a 31-yard halfback pass from Gurvin to Darius Daniel to move the ball to the Marietta 34, but the Marietta defense stopped the Rams there, forcing a punt.
Marietta took over on offense and went to work. A 14-yard completion on second down from quarterback Harrison Bailey to five-star tight end Arik Gilbert was aided by a personal-foul penalty to move the ball from inside the 10 to the 37. Two plays later, Bailey found Gilbert again, who sprinted 51 yards down to the Grayson 7.
However, three plays later, Grayson's Jibrahn Claude intercepted Bailey, a Tennessee commit, in the end zone to give the ball back to the Rams.
After Grayson was forced to punt again, the Blue Devils found pay dirt as Vidal slipped through a couple of tacklers and sprinted towards the end zone, giving the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead with 3:23 to go in the first quarter.
The Rams started to move the ball on their next drive, starting with two runs of five yards by Gurvin to set them up on the 30. Three plays later, a 23-yard completion from quarterback DeYon Cannon, who started the first quarter for Illinois-commit Dixon, to Haynes moved the ball down to the Marietta 27. But a holding call on the next play put the Rams behind the sticks and they could never recover, punting three plays later.
Midway through the second quarter, the Blue Devils looked to be driving again as they ventured down to the Grayson 32. However, Bailey once again missed his target, and Claude seized another chance, intercepting the ball on the 14 before returning it 48 yards to the Marietta 38.
The Marietta defense seemingly had stops on Grayson, but a third-down pass interference call moved the ball inside the 10. After three plays and only two yards, the Rams went to kick a 22-yard field goal, but Marietta's defense jumped offsides, to put the Rams on the 2, with Carter deciding to go with a heavy set on fourth down instead of a field-goal try.
And the offense didn't disappoint their coach as Gurvin ran it in from the 2, tying the score at 7-7 with 3:49 to go before halftime.
Neither team was able to do much the rest of the half as Bailey's hail-mary attempt at the buzzer was batted down.
And as halftime ended, the lightning came, forcing both teams back into their respective locker rooms for almost two hours.
After the delay, both teams struggled to do anything with the ball early in the second half. But the Grayson secondary again showed they had Bailey's number, intercepting him twice more on consecutive drives. The first came by Marquis Killebrew, who was assigned to Gilbert for most of the evening, while the second was by Marsyas Fox. Fox's interception was Bailey's third in the red zone and fourth overall in the game.
"We don't have a lot of stars in the secondary, but we have six or seven guys who bust their tails for this team," Carter said. "I told the guys tonight that tonight was their opportunity to make a name for themselves against a very good team. And they did that."
From there, Grayson went to work, getting a 14-yard completion to Jaden Smith before Dixon found Haynes over the middle for 53 yards. On the next play, Gurvin busted through the line and into the end zone for a six-yard score, giving the Rams a 14-7 lead with 14 seconds to go in the third quarter, setting up an unforgettable fourth quarter.
Haynes finished the game with 162 yards on six catches, while Gurvin had 104 total yards. Dixon finished 8-for-15 for 173 yards.
For Marietta, Bailey finished 18-for-35 for 207 yards and four interceptions. Gilbert finished with four catches for 93 yards and Vidal had 111 yards on 15 carries.
"Despite the delay, our fans stayed and supported us," Carter said. "When I got this job, that's one of the things I wanted to be a part of. I'm so thankful to be here."
Marietta 7 0 0 7 - 14
Grayson 0 7 7 14 - 28
Marietta: Kimani Vidal 41 run (Cooper Kipp kick) 3:23
Grayson: LaFayette Gurvin Jr. 2 run (Garwood Collins kick) 3:49
Grayson: Gurvin 6 run (Collins kick) :14
Marietta: Vidal 3 run (Kipp kick) 9:14
Grayson: Jamal Haynes 29 pass from C.J. Dixon (Collins kick) 5:07
Grayson: Gurvin 1 run (Collins kick) 1:45