Class AAAAAAA No. 3 Archer got a pair of field goals from Michael Johnson and the Tigers’ defense kept No. 1 Grayson’s offense out of the end zone to emerge with a 6-3 homecoming win Friday at Archer Community Stadium.
The victory all but assures Archer of the Region 8-AAAAAAA championship and a No. 1 seed in the postseason.
“Every week we’ve got to handle our business,” linebacker Emmanuel Michel said. “Every week it’s a different team, a different color. The other team is trying to keep us from what we want and that’s the region championship – and that’s what we got tonight.”
An announced crowd of 10,000-plus, creating a playoff atmosphere. The game was played at a high-level by both teams, with defense taking center stage.
Archer (7-0, 2-0 in Region 8) got a pair of interceptions from Andrew Booth, the second midway in the final quarter that set up with winning points.
“Hat’s off to our kids,” said Archer coach Andy Dyer, who received a congratulatory post-game hug from Dave Hunter, his former coach at Brookwood. “We didn’t play perfect, but we played good enough to win.”
Grayson (6-1, 1-1) had driven from its own 1, where the Rams started after Johnson angled a punt just in front of the pylon. Grayson drove as far as the 47, but couldn’t get out of its own way with two holding penalties, another for procedure and another for delay of game.
On third-and-19, Grayson quarterback D.J. Irons threw over the middle, where Booth easily snagged it and returned to the Grayson 14.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Booth said.
After three runs failed to move the ball, Dyer called on Johnson, who split the uprights for a 28-yard field goal.
“All the practice we had, I just focused on my job and did my job,” Johnson said. “After what they did to us last year (Grayson won 38-0), it’s a great way to come back. I’m just so happy we won.”
Grayson had a chance to tie the game on the ensuing possession. The Rams drove to the Archer 26, but Will Van Pamelen’s 43-yard try sailed wide to the right. Van Pamelen had missed a 31-yarder late in the third quarter.
The Rams had one last possession and managed to reach the 10 yard line before time expired, sending a mass of red-painted students flooding onto the field.
The score was tied 3-3 at halftime.
Grayson took the first kickoff and drove to the 26 before settling for a 43-yard field goal from Van Pamelen.
In the second period, Archer drove to the 2 and opted to have Johnson kick a 19-yard field goal with 3:13 left.
“He kicked well, he punted well, his kickoffs were good,” Dyer said. “He had a good game.”
Irons threw for 230 yards and ran for 41 yards, but was harassed all night by an aggressive Archer defense led by Emmanuel Michel. Grayson’s top rusher was Jonathan Halyard, who was thrust into the lineup due to injuries to Camron Thompson and Ronald Thompkins (torn ACL). Halyard carried 13 times for 40 yards.
“We knew (Irons) was the best player so we knew we had to attack them from the jump,” Michel said.
The Archer offense was led by tailback Keegan Strickland with 75 yards on 16 carries. Quarterback Carter Peevy was sacked three times and completed 11 of 21 passes for 93 yards. Ronald Schjang caught 10 passes for 57 yards.
“If you want to go far in the state playoffs, you better be able to play defense and our defense played well tonight,” Dyer said.