LAWRENCEVILLE — It was a night of defenses as both Grayson and Archer had a combined eight turnovers, but it was the Rams who took advantage of the miscues, besting their rival 26-7 on Friday night at Archer Community Stadium.
The Rams caused five fumbles on the night, recovering three, including two during red-zone drives by the Tigers.
"It's a great win for our program," said Grayson head coach Adam Carter. "Any time you can come on the road and beat your rival is special."
Grayson (4-0) got things going early in the first quarter when Clemson-commit Phil Mafah went 57 yards for a touchdown. Grady Bryant's 2-point conversion rush gave the Rams an 8-0 lead with 8:55 to go.
Grayson's defense got its first turnover of the night on Archer's next drive when Adis Cukovic jumped on the ball seven plays into Archer's drive.
However, Archer took the ball right back when Broderick Buck picked off DeYon Cannon and returned it 54 yards. A chop block during the return brought the ball back to the Grayson 41, and the Tigers were forced to punt after three plays.
The Tigers' (0-3) next drive saw more mistakes, but this time it was inside the red zone when Renaldo Spivey Jr. coughed up the ball into the arms of Grayson's Jayvian Allen.
Archer looked to be in business not too long after when Jackson McCrary blocked a punt. A 17-yard completion from quarterback Caleb Peevy to Andrew Dyer put the ball at the 3. But a false start and a big pop by the Grayson defense on Peevy two plays later saw the Tigers give up their third fumble in the first half, this time it was Jaidan Jackson with the recovery.
Grayson's defense continued to shine early in the second half when Allen picked off a Peevy pass. On Grayson's ensuing possession, Jimmy Gonzalez-Sanchez booted a 26-yard field goal to give the Rams an 11-0 lead.
"Our coaches came in and talked with us at halftime telling us we had to get after it," Jackson said. "We came out determined (to make a difference) and it's a credit to the chemistry we have up front."
The Tigers looked to get themselves back in the game on their very next drive, getting inside the red zone one again. However, Peevy was intercepted by A.J. Lopez, who returned the ball 81 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion rush by Bryant gave the Rams a 19-0 lead with 1:33 to go in the third quarter.
From there, the defenses continued to show out. Grayson garnered two sacks on Archer's next drive, while the Tigers' Caleb Wooden intercepted Cannon on the Rams' next drive.
Later in the fourth, Mafah put the game away with a nine-yard TD run to put the Rams up 26-0.
The Tigers added a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown by Wooden to nix the shutout, but it was all the Tigers could muster.
"I'm proud of the way our team has started the season," Carter said. "This definitely hasn't been easy. Everything about how we practice and prepare has changed. It's a real testament to our players and their parents for everything they've done since we started in the summer."
Mafah led the Rams with 21 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns, while Joe Taylor had 50 yards on seven carries.
Peevy led the Tigers' aerial attack, going 18-for-29 for 149 yards, while Spivey had 45 yards from scrimmage.
GRAYSON 26, ARCHER 7
Grayson 8 0 11 7 - 26
Archer 0 0 0 7 - 7
Grayson: Phil Mafah 57 run (Grady Bryant run) 8:55
Grayson: Jimmy Gonzalez-Sanchez 26 FG, 4:45
Grayson: A.J. Lopez 81 interception return (Bryant 2-pt. conv.) 1:33
Grayson: Mafah 9 run (Gonzalez-Sanchez kick) 6:56
Archer: Caleb Wooden 50 interception return (Javier Juarez kick) 4:14