LOGANVILLE — Defenses reigned supreme Friday night in the neighborhood rivalry between Archer and Grayson, which the Rams won 15-13. But that wasn't the focus at the end of the game.
The rivals put it all on the line for 48 minutes, but perspective filled Grayson Community Stadium late in the fourth quarter when Archer's Caleb Wooden was carted off the field.
"It's never easy to see that happen," said Grayson head coach Adam Carter. "Our thoughts and prayers truly go out to him."
"It was a high-emotion night with a lot of distractions off the field," said Archer defensive coordinator Joel Bridges. "It was a close game and the kids fought hard. We couldn't be more proud of them."
Both teams came out like heavyweight prize fighters looking to set the tone.
After an Archer punt, the Rams (3-1) got to work on offense using a 19-yard run by quarterback JoJo Stone to move the ball to the Archer 34-yard line. Three plays later, John Cineas caught the ball inside the 10 in the face on an Archer defender and spun out of a tackle as he dove into the end zone for a 30-yard score. Derrell Farrar took an option pitch from Stone for the two-point conversion to give the Rams an 8-0 lead with 6:54 to go in the first quarter.
The teams continued to trade blows over the next few drives with the Tigers landing the next punch late in the first and into the second quarter.
A 41-yard completion from Caleb Peevy to Frank Osorio set the Tigers up in the red zone. However, the Rams' defense held firm and forced a 29-yard field goal by Miles Hamby to make the score 8-3 early in the second.
Both teams sustained long drives later in the quarter, beginning with the Rams on their own 46. However, after getting to the 22, offensive holding on the Rams stopped their momentum and they had to settle for a 47-yard field goal attempt, which missed, leaving the score at 8-3.
Next, it was Archer's turn to go on a long drive after a 32-yard completion to D.J. Moore moved the ball to the Grayson 32. On the next play, everyone in the stadium thought the Tigers were taking the lead when Osorio was wide open in the end zone. However, a dropped pass by Osorio thwarted that opportunity.
Still, the Tigers (0-3) had a chance after earning a first down three plays later. But an intentional grounding call on the 17 and a fourth-down sack from the 22, turned the ball back over to the Rams at the end of the half as the teams went into the break with the score holding firm at 8-3.
A Grayson punt to open the half opened the door for Archer early in the third. A 21-yard rush by William Wallace moved the ball towards midfield. Five plays later, Wallace found Moore between two Grayson defenders for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 10-8 lead with 8:13 to go in the third quarter.
"We had some mental mistakes tonight and that's on me," Carter said. "Hopefully, those will be good for us and we'll learn from it."
Stone threw consecutive interceptions on the next two Grayson drives, with Archer's Nick Hardy and Sean Spearman coming up with the picks.
However, after the second Archer pick, the Rams returned the favor when Mumu Bin-Wahad picked off Wallace in the end zone to turn the ball back over to the Rams.
But it was on Archer's next drive that Grayson's defense came up with its biggest moment as a fumbled lateral was scooped up by Michael Daugherty, who returned it 34 yards for a touchdown to give the Rams a 15-10 lead with 10:16 to go in the fourth quarter.
"I challenged him right before that play and told him we needed a big play," Carter said. "He stepped up big for his team."
The Tigers went into their bag of tricks on their next drive when Wallace found Al Edwards for a 44-yard flea flicker, moving the ball to the Grayson 35. Later, a 27-yard completion to Osorio moved the ball to the 3, but three straight plays went nowhere for the Tigers as they had to settle for the 22-yard field goal.
In the end, Archer wasn't able to put any more points on the board as the Rams were able to gain a first down on their final drive to salt the game away.
Archer was led by Chase Sellers on the ground with 81 yards, while the two quarterbacks combined to go 12-for-24 for 256 yards.
The Rams were led by Stone with 65 yards passing and 39 yards on the ground.
"This game has been a dogfight the last few years," Carter said. "You can't take anything for granted when Grayson and Archer meet."
Archer 0 3 7 3 - 13
Grayson 8 0 0 7 - 15
Grayson: John Cineas 30 pass from JoJo Stone (Derrell Farrar conversion) 6:54
Archer: Miles Hamby 29 FG 11:10
Archer: D.J. Moore 38 pass from William Wallace (Hamby kick) 8:13
Grayson: Michael Daugherty 34 fumble return (Jimmy Gonzalez-Sanchez kick) 10:16
Archer: Hamby 22 FG 6:38