This was coach Jeff Herron’s first year to be involved with the Grayson-South Gwinnett rivalry and he learned right away what it means to both communities.
Herron’s fired-up Grayson team smacked South Gwinnett early and often and rolled to a 45-3 win, ruining Senior Night for the Comets and clinching the Region 8-AAAAAAA championship.
It was the third straight region championship for Grayson. South Gwinnett secured the second spot in the region.
“It was my first time with this rivalry and evidently it was a bigger deal to the kids than I thought because they were ready to play and they were excited and they got after it,” Herron said.
Herron, who had spent most of his coaching career at Camden County and Prince Avenue Christian, took the Grayson job in the spring after Mickey Conn took a job at Clemson. Conn, who played at South Gwinnett, started the Grayson program in 2002 primarily with players from the old South Gwinnett district and built it into a perennial championship contender and winning it all in 2011.
The No. 2-ranked Rams caused two fumbles and intercepted a pair of passes, turning one into a pick-six, and matched the most lopsided outcome in the history of the series. Grayson now leads the series 10-5. The Rams have won five of the last six games and the previous four wins were by shutouts.
“I’ve always said it takes really good defensive play and really good special teams to have a really great team,” Herron said. “We’re not perfect by any stretch, but we’re working on that.”
Grayson (9-1, 5-0) was led offensively by quarterback Chase Brice, who threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
South Gwinnett (8-2, 4-2) got 61 yards passing and 31 yards rushing from quarterback Seth Johnson. But he was sacked three times and tackled for a loss three other times.
Grayson set the tone early by scoring on its first possession, a 64-yard drive capped by a 6-yard run by Brice, and on a 59-yard pass from Brice to Elijah Shah.
South Gwinnett drove to the Grayson 3, but couldn’t punch it in and settled for a 20-yard field goal by Dawson Newman.
That’s when things got ugly. Williams returned the kickoff for an 86-yard touchdown and added another quick score when Breon Dixon intercepted a pass and returned it 18 yards for a score to give the Rams a 28-3 lead.
“It was a big point in the game,” Herron said. “They got down there, we made some mistakes defensively, but the kids rose up and kept them out of the end zone. We swapped three points for seven, so that was a big point in the game.”
After another three-and-out, Grayson scored again. Ronald Thompkins caught a 46-yard pass from Brice and scored two plays later on a 19-yard run, as the Rams took a 35-3 halftime lead.
Grayson added a 39-yard touchdown on a pass from Brice to Kurt Taylor and a 43-yard goal from Will Von Pamelen.