Sam Horn re-entered the game in the waning seconds to take the last home snap of his career and triumphantly raised his arms as the clock expired. Travis Hunter did a backflip, then another before running off to do a television interview. The rest of the Collins Hill football team hugged their family members and had pictures taken in front of the scoreboard.
There was plenty of reason for happiness on The Hill.
The No. 1-ranked Eagles had just overpowered defending state champion Grayson 31-0 on Friday in the Class 7A semifinal at Alan Fahring Stadium. The win puts the Eagles (14-0) in the championship game for the second straight year. It also gave them a spot of revenge over Grayson (10-4), which defeated them twice last year, one of them in the title game.
“I know they’re a different team from last year,” Horn said. “But now we can say we’re the best team in Gwinnett County, so I’m excited about that.”
Collins Hill play Milton for the Class 7A championship on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Georgia State’s Center Parc Stadium.
Grayson’s defense put up a valiant effort against the high-scoring Eagles, but eventually got worn down by Collins Hill’s relentless attack. Collins Hill only led 10-0 at halftime but took the second-half kickoff and drove 84 yards in 16 plays, with quarterback Sam Horn scoring on a 1-yard run.
“They weren’t going to let us have any big plays,” Horn said. “I feel like I didn’t execute very well in the first half. When we got into the locker room, we didn’t panic or anything. I told the offensive linemen and I challenged everybody on offense that we’re going to have to run the ball and you’ve got to do your job and were going to win.”
Grayson fumbled it away on its first play of the half, with Hunter recovering. Three plays later Spenser Anderson scored from the 3. The Rams went 3-and-out – they ran only four offensive plays in the third quarter – and Collins Hill drove 80 yards and scored on Anderson’s 17-yard touchdown run with six seconds left.
“That’s one of the most well-rounded football teams I’ve ever been around,” Grayson coach Adam Carter said. “We were out there do much.”
Horn, a Missouri commit, completed 21 of 29 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown. Hunter, the nation’s No. 1 prospect and Florida State commit, caught eight passes for 73 yards and one touchdown on offense and recovered a fumble on defense. Spenser Anderson rushed 14 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Grayson stuck with a conservative approach from the moment it received the opening kickoff. The Rams did their best to shorten the game by running clocking and keeping it away from the explosive Collins Hill offense.
The strategy kept the game close for the first half.
Collins Hill didn’t score its first points until 6:04 left in the second quarter. The Eagles drove 80 yards and scored when Horn threw a pass that only a player with the skills of Travis Hunter could have gathered in. The 26-yard pass broke the deadlock and gave them a 7-0 lead.
“I throw it up to my athletes and I expect them to catch the ball. That’s what I love about them,” Horn said. “They do their thing to get open and I’m supposed to give them the ball.”
Hunter said, “It’s something we go over every day,” Hunter said. “The whole team has been playing together pretty much for four years, so we’ve all that connection.”
Grayson, which failed to capitalize on Caden High’s interception in the second quarter, got another takeaway when freshman Jaylen Bell recovered a bobbled punt at the Eagles’ 32. Grayson got to the 26, but was flagged for holding on third down and opted to punt.
Collins Hill began at its own 5 and drove to the 4, where they missed on three plays and chose to send Isaac Bonaccci on for a 21-yard field goal. The successful kick sent the game into halftime with Collins Hill leading 10-0.
“We knew we needed to stop the run, have a good run game and then just play great defense and not give them any big plays,” Collins Hill coach Lenny Gregory said.
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