Will VanPamelen kicked a 25-yard field goal to cap off a frantic finish as top-ranked Grayson took its first lead of the game with 1:04 remaining, gave up that lead on the final play of regulation, and ultimately beat No. 2 Roswell 23-20 in overtime in the Class AAAAAAA championship game Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
VanPamelen’s kick in the Rams’ overtime possession provided the final margin, but the victory wasn’t secure until Roswell’s Turner Barckhoff, who had kicked field goals of 47 and 29 yards during regulation, missed a 32-yarder on the game’s final play.
The victory, in the final high school football game to be played in the Georgia Dome, gave Grayson (14-1) its second state title and first since 2011. Grayson’s Jeff Herron became the first coach to lead three schools to state titles. He previously won championships at Oconee County (1999) and Camden County (2003, 2008 and 2009).
Roswell finished 14-1 after losing in the championship game for the second consecutive season.
“There was so much noise, so many distractions, so much stuff going on outside of trying to build a team,” Herron said of his first season at Grayson. “But our guys just fought through it. We didn’t play great tonight, but they found a way. I couldn’t be prouder of a team. Honestly, in my whole career, this is probably the hardest coaching job I’ve ever had.”
Grayson had just 71 yards of total offense and trailed 13-6 when it took possession at its 3-yard line with 10:15 remaining. The Rams drove 97 yards in 10 plays and scored on a 62-yard pass from Chase Brice to Jaquavius Lane. Roswell’s Jujuan White blocked the extra-point attempt, however, preserving a 13-12 lead for the Hornets with 6:36 left.
Roswell was forced to punt on its next possession, and the Rams took over at their 39 with 3:42 to play. Grayson drove 61 yards in six plays, with Brice throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Lane. The two teamed up again for the two-point conversion for a 20-13 lead with 1:04 left.
Roswell answered with a seven-play, 70-yard drive and scored on a 20-yard pass from Malik Willis to Kentrell Barber on the final play of regulation to tie the game 20-20.
Roswell took a 7-0 lead on its second possession on a 26-yard pass from Willis to Corey Reed with 6:10 to play in the first quarter. Roswell also got a 47-yard field goal by Barckhoff on the final play of the half for its four-point halftime lead.
Jamyest Williams gave Grayson its only offensive spark in the first half. His 36-yard punt return to the Roswell 49 midway through the second quarter set up a four-play touchdown drive that ended with Brice’s 34-yard scoring pass to DeAngelo Gibbs. However, Roswell maintained its lead at 7-6 when the Rams missed the extra-point attempt.
Roswell finished with a 261-238 advantage in total offense. Willis was 19-of-30 passing for 261 yards and rushed for a team-leading 40 yards on 11 carries, although the team was held to 68 yards rushing on 34 carries.
Brice was 18-of-27 passing for 238 yards, but the Rams also struggled in the running game, finishing with 8 yards on 23 carries.
“I don’t know what else to say right now, but we found a way to do it,” Brice said. “We trusted our defense. The fans were great all night, and we’re just happy.”
Roswell – 7-3-0-10-0 – 20
Grayson 0-6-0-14-3 – 23
R – Corey Reed 26 pass from Malik Willis (Turner Barckhoff kick)
G – DeAngelo Gibbs 34 pass from Chase Brice (kick failed)
R – Barckhoff 47 field goal
R – Barckhoff 29 field goal
G – Jaquavius Lane 62 pass from Brice (kick blocked)
G – Lane 35 pass from Brice (Lane pass from Brice)
R – Kentrell Barber 20 pass from Willis (Barckhoff kick)
G – Wil VanPamelen 25 field goal