Grayson 19, Buford 14

Grayson takes the field before the Grayson vs. Brookwood High School Football game on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia. (Jamie Spaar for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Jamie Spaar

Credit: Jamie Spaar

Grayson takes the field before the Grayson vs. Brookwood High School Football game on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia. (Jamie Spaar for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

LOGANVILLE — In his first season since being promoted to head coach, Santavious Bryant has Grayson in the Class 7A semifinals.

Led by a poised and tenacious defense, Grayson (11-2) upended Buford (11-2) 19-14 Friday at Grayson Stadium, ending the state title aspirations of the nationally ranked Wolves.

Defensively and offensively, Bryant said his team’s mentality was to be the aggressor throughout the game.

Even when the offense moved backward, and the Rams trailed 14-13 with four minutes remaining in the game, Bryant never hesitated to go for it on a fourth-and-8 from the Wolves’ 48-yard line. Quarterback JD Davis threw a laser to Alexander Sanchez, who stretched out to reach the first-down marker and extend the Rams’ hopes.

On the next play, Davis threw another short pass to Sanchez, but this time the receiver broke free for a 37-yard gain to set up the Rams first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Amari Alston took the next handoff, bounced outside and ran untouched into the end zone for the go-ahead score. The two-point conversion was no good, but the Grayson defense eliminated any suspense on the next Buford possession.

The Rams sacked highly touted quarterback Dylan Raiola on third down and fourth down, forcing a turnover on downs with one minute and 28 seconds remaining. Grayson took the victory formation and ran out the clock to complete the upset.

Defensively, the Rams sacked Raiola six times, forced and recovered three fumbles in the first half, and held the nationally ranked Wolves to negative rushing yardage.

“We weren’t going to go out and lose that game by not being aggressive,” Bryant said. “Their quarterback is an outstanding player, so we had to get after him and affect him to even have a chance to win.”

Buford’s only score in the first half came on a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by KJ Bolden, but that couldn’t spark the Wolves’ offense, which managed just one first down in the second quarter.

Raiola checked down to Devin Williams for an 8-yard gain, but Williams was hit hard and lost the football, which was recovered at the Wolves’ 34-yard line by Uriah Points for Grayson.

Davis brought Grayson’s offense to life with a 19-yard scramble, followed by a 15-yard touchdown pass on a fade route to Sanchez. That gave the Rams a 10-7 lead.

The Grayson defense gave the offense another opportunity when a pass caught by a Buford receiver again became a fumble and a turnover. With one minute and 27 seconds remaining in the half, the Rams took over at the 19-yard line, setting up a 28-yard field goal by Haran Cufurovic.

“That’s every day at practice,” Bryant said. “We stress turnovers and giving the offense the ball. The kids bought into what we’re doing.”

The Rams led 13-10 at halftime, but the Wolves appeared to find their stride offensively early in the third quarter. Raiola hit three straight passes of 10, 25, and 17 yards before running back Kobi Blackwell cashed in on a 5-yard touchdown run to make it 14-13.

But the Rams stayed poised and continued to frustrate the Buford offense until the Grayson offense mustered its game-winning drive.

Davis was just 9 of 23 for 167 yards passing in the game, but when his team needed him to make a throw, he delivered both times to Sanchez.

Raiola, a Georgia commit, finished the final game of his lone year at Buford 12 of 17 for 136 yards.

The Rams are on the hunt for another state title since winning the Class 7A championship in 2020. They will play Milton in the semifinals on Friday.



First Quarter

GHS—Haran Cufurovic 32 field goal

BHS—KJ Bolden 97 kick return (Mario Ventura kick)

Second Quarter

GHS—Alexander Sanchez 15 pass from JD Davis (Cufurovic kick)

GHS — Cufurovic 28 field goal

Third Quarter

BHS—Kobi Blackwell 5 run (Ventura kick)

Fourth Quarter

GHS — Amari Alston 3 yd run (conversion failed)