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Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Grayson 38, Marietta 31

Game marred by injury to Rams’ senior Kenyatta Watson

Marietta fans had many reasons to bail out early on their Blue Devils in their matchup with Grayson.

First, the game was delayed more than 30 minutes due to lightning in the area. Then a torrential downpour in the second quarter soaked everything and everyone at Northcutt Stadium. And to make matters worse, Grayson dominated the first 24 minutes of the game and held a 29-0 lead at the half.

But in the second half, a combination of a lack of fire by Grayson, a couple of perfectly executed onside kicks by Marietta, and a torching of Grayson’s vaunted secondary by Blue Devil quarterback Harrison Bailey and his talented trio of receivers – Arik Gilbert, Kobe Stewart and Ramel Keyton – transformed the blowout into a competitive game. Still, Marietta ran out of time and Grayson did just enough offensively to hang on to a 38-31 win.

The outcome of the game became an afterthought due to what appeared to be a serious injury to Grayson senior defensive back Kenyatta Watson, who is committed to Texas. After nearly 30 minutes and with both teams crowded around Watson, an ambulance was called to transport him to a local hospital. The injury occurred with 52 seconds remaining in the game 

Grayson (2-1), No. 5 in Class AAAAAAA, took control of the top 10 battle early as the Rams capped their first possession of the game with a 9-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback J’Kori Jones to Yadon Johnson, who made a one-handed catch at the back of the end zone for a 7-0 lead. 

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The Rams increased the lead to 10-0 early in the second quarter when Kevin Sanchez nailed a 41-yard field goal. The lead grew to 16-0 when Marvin Smith scooped up a punt that had been blocked by senior linebacker Owen Pappoe, and ran it in from 10-yards out. Another blocked punt led to a 5-yard touchdown run by senior Jonathan Halyard, and on the Rams’ next possession, Halyard darted up the middle for a 34-yard touchdown to make the score 29-0 at the half.

Grayson looked like it had delivered a knockout blow and pushed the game into having a running clock at some point, when the Rams took the opening possession of the third quarter and needed just five plays to march 84 yards, with Pappoe covering the last two for a 35-0 lead.

But that’s when Bailey and the Blue Devil offense woke up. The 6-5, 220-pound junior, touted as one of the nation’s top drop back quarterbacks, lit up the Rams’ secondary, which features several players headed to FBS schools. 

Bailey, under duress from the Grayson front seven all night, led Marietta on four-unanswered scoring drives, throwing four touchdown passes – a 12-yarder to Gilbert, a 7-yarder to Stewart, and an 18-yarder and a 34-yarder to Keyton – to trim the lead to 35-25 with a little over 7 minutes left in the game. The comeback was aided by two perfectly executed onside kicks by junior Cooper Kipp.

Grayson capped a 5-minute drive with a 46-yard field goal by Sanchez to increase the lead to 38-25 with a little less than 3 minutes to play. Bailey and Marietta made it a one-score game, 38-31, when Keyton caught his third touchdown of the game with 40 seconds left in regulation.

The Blue Devils added to the suspense when Gilbert recovered another onside kick. But Bailey’s pass into the end zone on the third play of the possession was picked off by senior Jeremiah Smith, who had dropped in interception two plays earlier, to seal the deal.

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