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Football: South can't hold on in second half against Grayson
south forsyth grayson football 11918
South Forsyth’s Tre’von Green and Ehren Achterman tackle Grayson’s Danny Asibey during the teams’ game on Nov. 9, 2018 at Grayson High School. Photo by Paul Ward.

By Ben Beitzel
Gwinnett Daily Post

Like a compactor, slowly but inevitably crushing all in its path, the Grayson defense spent Friday night constricting South Forsyth until the War Eagles simply collapsed.

The crushing peaked in the third quarter where the Rams defense held South Forsyth to minus-8 yards of total offense, three punts (one on third down) and an interception. The domination allowed the offense to turn a narrow 7-6 halftime lead into a 38-6 win in the first round of the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs. With the loss, the War Eagles finished the season at 5-6.

“We overcome injuries and players suspended, we were able to overcome that because of our defense and special teams,” Grayson head coach Christian Hunnicutt said.  “In the second half, I thought our offense responded. There are a lot of teams, things don’t play out.”

With the defense showing off in the third quarter, the Rams offense finally came alive. Grayson scored on five straight possessions in the last two quarters getting a pair of touchdown runs by Phil Mafah, touchdown passes from C.J. Dixon to Josh Stinson and Ryan King and a 43 yard field goal by Kevin Sanchez.

After a lackluster first half, Dixon ended the game with 86 yards on 9 of 14 passing with two touchdowns. Mafah rushed for a team-high 80 yards on eight carries and Jonathan Halyard had 67 yards on 14 carries.

“We just have to keep improving,” Hunnicutt said. “This time of year it’s about turnovers and stupid penalties.

But all of the offense came on the back of a dominant defense. Grayson’s defense forced six turnovers, including interceptions by Kenyatta Watson and Jeremiah Smith, a fumble creation and recovery by Tyler McCaskill and two consecutive fumble recoveries on muffed kickoffs by South Forsyth.

“This might have been the best game we’ve played defensively from alignment to assignment to tackling, communication,” Hunnicutt said, taking time to think through all the season’s games. “The guys in our secondary communicate so well -- Jalen Alexander, Kenyatta Watson,
Jaylen Haynes.”

Hunnicutt continued raving, mentioning linebackers Tre Brown, “an Ivy League kid,” and Trevon Salter, “a film fanatic.” But on Friday, the defense earned a list of accolades because it kept the Rams in the position to dominate.

Before the crushing commenced, in the first half, both teams relied on defense and trick plays. Grayson faked two punts, threw a wide receiver pass for its only score and South Forsyth recovered an onside kick and threw its own wide receiver pass.

The War Eagles got on the board first, taking some cues from South Gwinnett’s modest offensive success a week prior, and running the ball from the quarterback position. South Forsyth quarterback Drew Morris rushed for 86 of his game-high 102 yards in the first half, putting the No. 4 seed in the end zone with a 29-yard scoring run in the first quarter.

The Rams finally answered after the defense forced one of its many a three-and-out near the goal line. The short punt gave Grayson the ball on the War Eagles’ 43 and that’s when they gave the ball to receiver Stinson on a trick play and the senior found classmate Keelan Marion for a touchdown and a 7-6 halftime lead.