SNELLVILLE — It took three plays for Grayson’s football team to start region play off with a bang.
The Rams received the opening kickoff of their Region 4-AAAAAAA lid-lifter at South Gwinnett, and future Clemson running back Phil Mafah ran into the end zone from 17 yards out on the third snap of the drive.
It was just the start of Grayson’s offensive explosion.
Grayson (6-0, 1-0) hammered South Gwinnett (4-2, 0-1) 42-7 in a game that was never in doubt, making an emphatic statement to start off region play in its final tuneup before a showdown against Parkview in two weeks.
The Rams rushed for 238 yards on 29 carries with four touchdowns, part of a total offensive effort of 386 yards in the rout. Grayson picked up 220 of those rushing yards on 22 first half carries, averaging a first down per carry.
“The difference tonight from last week was our offensive line and having (offensive lineman) Garrett Brophy back,” Grayson head coach Adam Carter said. “The physical statement that they brought to us tonight was huge.”
Mafah found the end zone almost immediately on the game’s first possession, and it didn’t take long for him to make it back there. Cameron Roach intercepted the first pass attempt of the game from South Gwinnett quarterback Rion White, and returned the ball back into the red zone. On the second play of the ensuing possession, Mafah took the ball 14 yards across the goal line for his second score in 2:01 of game time.
The first two drives of the game amounted to almost all of Mafah’s work for the night, but Grayson’s running back depth didn’t skip a beat.
In particular, sophomore Joe Taylor took his opportunity and ran with it. He ran all over the Comets, too.
Taylor finished the night with 55 rushing yards on eight carries, second on the team only to Mafah’s 86 yards on eight carries. Taylor’s yards included the third Grayson score of the night, a 25-yard untouched run up the middle midway through the first quarter.
“They’re really good players,” Carter said of his top running back duo. “Those guys were able to hit some holes.”
South Gwinnett head coach Steve Davenport had an almost identical view of the situation from the opposite sideline.
“They’re really good,” Davenport said. “That’s an understatement. We saw them on film, but you don’t know what you’re facing until you face it.”
Jamal Haynes got involved in the running game a little bit as well for the Rams. The Georgia Tech-committed wide receiver set up Grayson’s fourth score of the night by taking a jet sweep 35 yards down into the red zone late in the opening frame. Quarterback DeYon Cannon called his own number to finish the drive, keeping it from a yard out for Grayson’s fourth rushing score in a little over eight minutes.
Haynes did manage to pick up one score before the night ended, but it was back in his role as wide receiver. Haynes caught a 44-yard toss from Cannon early in the second quarter, splitting the safeties and taking the ball in for a score. Haynes led all receivers in the game with 81 yards, and had 116 total yards from scrimmage.
Cannon threw his second TD pass of the game on Grayson’s first offensive snap of the second quarter. A bad snap on a South Gwinnett punt set the Rams up inside the five, and Cannon hit senior receiver Jaden Smith for a three-yard score.
The Comets broke the shutout with six ticks left on the clock when Rion White found Corey Johnson in the corner of the end zone for a six-yard TD pass. Now it will be back to the drawing board for Davenport’s team; South will have a bye week before a trip to Peachtree Ridge.
“The break will be good for us,” Davenport said. “It’s about getting over it more than anything. We’ll get past this, and then we have to get ready for Peachtree Ridge.”
Grayson will have a bye next week as well, but the eyes of the country will be on the Rams the next time they take the field. Grayson will battle Parkview in a game that will be televised on ESPN2 and could decide the region championship on Oct. 30.
“Parkview is one of the best teams in the state of Georgia,” Carter said. “We’re going to take it one day at a time and try to fix ourselves this week and then we’ll go get ready for Parkview.”
GRAYSON 42, SOUTH GWINNETT 7
Grayson 28 7 7 0 — 42
South Gwinnett 0 0 0 7 — 7
Grayson: Phil Mafah 17 rush (Victoine Brown 2-pt reception from Grady Bryant) 10:56
Grayson: Mafah 14 rush (2-pt conversion attempt failed) 8:55
Grayson: Joe Taylor 25 rush (Bryant 2-pt conversion rush) 5:05
Grayson: DeYon Cannon 1 rush (2-pt conversion attempt failed) 2:48
Grayson: Jamal Haynes 44 pass from Cannon (Jimmy Gonzalez kick) 10:32
Grayson: Jaden Smith 3 pass from Cannon (Gonzalez kick) 7:16
South: Corey Johnston 6 pass from Rion White (Parwez Tanha kick) :06