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  • Tyler Harden

Grayson advances to 7A State Championship with impressive win over Norcross

Photo Credit: Gwinnett Daily Post

NORCROSS, GEORGIA— The Grayson Rams came into Friday night’s 7A State Semifinal ranked as the number one high school football team in Georgia according to MaxPreps. However, the Rams knew that in order to advance to the state championship, they would have to play their best, even without star running back and Clemson signee, Phil Mafah. The Norcross Blue Devils came into the semifinal matchup with the momentum they needed after knocking off another state powerhouse, Colquitt County. Grayson and Norcross both came into last night’s game undefeated, so their only loss of the season would end their season. But Grayson executed from the start of the game, and didn’t look back.

After the Grayson defense forced a three and out on the Blue Devils’ first possession, Grayson running back, Joe Taylor Jr., led the Rams into Norcross territory to the 35-yard line. But the Blue Devil defense controlled the Rams, bringing them to 4th and 5. However, Grayson went for it, and quarterback, Jake Garcia, who is signed with Miami, showed why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Garcia found Jamal Haynes, who is signed with Georgia Tech, for a 29-yard touchdown to give the Rams an earl 7-0 lead (PAT good).

The Grayson defense continued to execute, forcing another Norcross punt. Jake Garcia then led the Rams to the Norcross 15-yard line. But the Norcross defense forced a 4th and 11. After succeeding last on their last possession, Grayson took their chances to see if they could convert twice in a row on fourth down. The Blue Devil defense had something different in mind, as Justin Dingle intercepted the pass for Norcross, and the Blue Devils took over at their own 5-yard line. After the first quarter ended, Grayson had a 7-0 lead.

Norcross was forced to punt to start the second quarter, but a bad snap forced the punter’s knee to hit the ground. As a result, Grayson took over with great field position at the Norcross 4-yard line. The Rams took advantage, as Joe Taylor Jr. ran 2-yards up the middle to give Grayson a 14-0 lead (PAT good).

But the Blue Devils wouldn’t go away, as running back, Jahni Clarke, converted on 2nd and 7 for a first down to the Grayson 34-yard line. However, Norcross couldn’t keep going, and were forced to punt. After Jake Garcia completed a pass to Jaden Smith on 4th down to their ow 38-yard line, Norcross safety, Josh Graham, intercepted a pass at Grayson’s 49-yard line. Norcross then caught a break, after two pass interference penalties brought the offense to the Grayson 18-yard line. But the Rams defense kept Norcross in-control, as they forced 4th down and 8. The Blue Devils wanted to see if they can convert on fourth down as well, so they went for it. However, Mason Kaplan’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by AJ Lopez, and Grayson went into halftime with a 14-0 lead.

After Norcross forced the Grayson offense to punt to start the second half, the Rams’ defense made an impact once again. Mumu Bin-Wahad intercepted a pass for Grayson, and the Rams took over at their own 21-yard line. Jake Garcia then locked in, as he found Jamal Haynes on 3rd and 9 for a great catch and a 27-yard gain to the Norcross 23-yard line. Garcia then found Jaden Smith for a 25-yard touchdown to make the score 21-0 (PAT good).

Norcross still wouldn’t go away, as Trey Goodman completed a pass to Zion Alexander for a 1st down at their own 41-yard line, and Mason Kaplan found D’Andre Golden for another first down at the Grayson 44-yard line. The Grayson defense wasn’t fazed, as defensive end, Jaidyn Hicks, came up with a big sack to force a loss of 10 yards and a punt. After the third quarter came to a close, Grayson had a 21-0 lead.

Grayson was brought to 3rd down and 8 to start the fourth quarter, but Jake Garcia was able to find Jamal Haynes for a deep pass to the Norcross 40-yard line. Jayvian Allen then broke tackles for another first down run to the Norcross 25-yard line. But the Rams were brought to 4th and 15, and they decided to go for it again. But Jake Garcia couldn’t complete the pass to Jamal Haynes in the end zone, and were forced to turn the ball over.

The Rams caught a break, however, as Norcross fumbled the football after a completed pass, and Jayvian Allen recovered for Grayson at the Norcross 30-yard line. The Grayson offense took advantage, as on 3rd and 8, Sean Downer ran 10-yards up the middle for a touchdown, and put Grayson up 28-0 (PAT good). The Norcross offense had one last chance to get on the board, but the Grayson defense came up with the stop, and punched their ticket to the 7A State Championship with a 28-0 win.

Grayson continues their undefeated season, advancing to 13-0, and remains one of the top teams not only in the state of Georgia, but the entire country. The Rams will play Collins Hill in the 7A State Championship with a date and time to be determined. Norcross ends their season at 13-1, and will remain one of the top teams in the state.

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