Taylor, Downer and Allen took the load normally shouldered by Clemson signee Phil Mafah, a running back lost to injury at the end of the regular season. Grayson also lost an AJC Super 11 pick, wide receiver Daejon Reynolds, a Florida signee, to a season-ending injury before the first game.
But none of those setbacks, nor the challenges of high expectations or COVID-19, was a deterrent.
“I know it’s been struggle; we got it done,” Carter said. “We’re back. This is where we’re supposed to be. We found a way to get it done.”
The championship also brought to a close the compelling Georgia adventure of California quarterback Jake Garcia, who came east in August after his native state postponed its football season. After being ruled ineligible at his original Georgia school, Garcia controversially landed at Grayson in midseason. He was 10-of-18 passing for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the title game and won his first state title. Garcia signed with Miami.
Grayson and Collins Hill were playing in the third all-Gwinnett County final in history, the first since Norcross beat North Gwinnett in 2012. The two had met in a September game that was 7-7 in the fourth quarter before Grayson won 28-7. The original loser had won 10 of the past 17 rematches played in the state finals, but Grayson was having none of that.
Held to three first downs in the first half, Collins Hill was competitive only after intermission with Sam Horn throwing his 40th and 41st touchdown passes of the season. He finished 32-of-49 passing for 243 yards but was intercepted twice. Travis Hunter, Collins Hill’s five-star junior recruit, had 11 receptions for 100 yards – giving him a startling 146 receptions for 1,739 yards unofficially on the season. He intercepted a pass, his eighth.
But by the time Horn and Hunter heated up, the matter was decided, and Grayson was drawing comparisons to some of the state’s best teams through history. The Rams became the first unbeaten champion in Georgia’s highest classification since Colquitt County in 2015 and the most dominant in the playoffs – winning by an average of 30.4 points – since Lowndes in 2005.
The closing victory assured top-five finishes in at least three national polls and begged the question of whether the Rams should be No. 1.
“All that stuff is people way smarter than me sitting in a room, writing stuff down,” Carter said. “I don’t know about that. We showed up every week that we were supposed to play and won. That’s all I can say.”
Grayson – 14-21- 3-0 – 38
Collins Hill – 0- 0-14-0 – 14
G - Jamal Haynes 37 pass from Jake Garcia (Jimmy Gonzalez kick), 10:23
G - Jayvian Allen 13 run (Gonzalez kick), 1:40
G - Jayvian Allen 2 run (Gonzalez kick), 11:33
G - Jayvian Allen 3 run (Gonzalez kick), 7:03
G - Myles Woods 7 pass from Garcia (Gonzalez kick), 3:21
CH – Travis Hunter 5 pass from Sam Horn (Isaac Bonacci kick), 9:06
G – Gonzalez 30 field goal, 6:55
CH – Clint Gilbert 45 pass from Horn (Bonacci kick), 2:33