The Grayson football team that most had expected to see all year finally showed up on Thursday night. Not for a play or two. Not for a quarter or a half. The No. 4 Rams put together four solid quarters and rolled past No. 5 Archer 41-14 in a nationally televised game at Grayson Community Stadium.
The victory likely means the Rams (5-2) will win the Region 8-AAAAAAA championship. It gave them a win over rival Archer (5-2) and revenge from last year’s 6-3 loss to the Tigers.
“We’ve been preaching play one play at a time, play one play at a time and for the first time all year we played one play at a time,” Grayson coach Christian Hunnicutt said. “We had played very well in spurts throughout the year. Sometimes hit a lull, but tonight was the first night we played for four quarters. Still not perfect, because football’s not a game of perfect, but for the first time all year we played one play at a time.”
The big swing came early in the third quarter after Grayson took a 21-7 lead at halftime.
Archer’s Edwin Mangual intercepted a pass on the third play of the half and the Tigers quickly cashed in on their first offensive play. Carter Peevy threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Booth, who slipped out of an ankle tackle and scored to cut Grayson’s lead to 21-14.
That’s as close as Archer would get. Grayson went on an 11-play drive – overcoming a touchdown-negating illegal shift penalty along the way – and scored on a 1-yard run by Phil Mafah. The extra point failed and Grayson led 26-14.
The real killer came two plays later. Grayson’s Jalen Alexander made an acrobatic interception, reversed field and returned it for a 51-yard touchdown.
“I just played my technique like my coach told me to do,” Alexander said. “I’m supposed to get around and look for the ball and by the grace of God it just came to me. I was just trying to get in the end zone for my team.”
Grayson quarterback J’kori Jones completed 9 of 14 passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns. Kenyon Jackson caught four passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns and Ryan King caught four passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns. Jonathan Halyard rushed 23 times for 105 yards and Mafah had 40 yards and one touchdown.
Archer’s Peevy completed 20 of 32 for 258 yards, two interceptions and two touchdowns. Booth caught four passes for 86 yards and both touchdowns, 39 and 24 yards. But the Tigers never got their ground game going against Grayson’s tough defense and managed only 60 yards rushing.
“Our defense did an outstanding job of preparation,” Hunnicutt said. “I can’t say enough about them. I’m proud of our players and proud of our coaches. Archer is a tough, tough team and they will be a difficult out in the playoff.”
Alexander said, “I think our defense played lights out. We put our heart and our soul on that field and we played like we should have been playing from the jump.”
Grayson scored on its first play from scrimmage, as Jones flipped to Jackson, who raced for a 75-yard touchdown.
Archer tied the game after Booth blocked a 34-yard field goal try by Kevin Sanchez. The Tigers turned that into points when Booth caught a 39-yard touchdown pass.
Archer blocked a 44-yard field goal try midway in the second quarter, but failed to take advantage. Grayson got it back on a short punt and scored on a 35-yard pass from Jones to King.
A fake punt backfired on Archer before the half, as Booth couldn’t get past the line of scrimmage and gave Grayson the ball at the 22. Six plays later Jones and King hooked up for a 10-yard touchdown and the Rams led 21-14 at halftime.