The Indians battled admirably against defending state champion Grayson — the nation’s No. 1 team according to ESPN — in Saturday’s Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome. They hung in with the Rams for three quarters before two fourth-quarter turnovers allowed Grayson to pull away and seal a 31-12 victory.
McEachern quarterback Ty Clemons showed great potential in his first start, rushing for 108 yards and going 9-of-16 for 102 passing yards. The junior, who shared time with North Cobb transfer Ty Griffin, ignited McEachern (0-1) early with a 79-yard rushing touchdown on the second play of McEachern’s opening drive, and he threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Chris Okeh late in the second quarter to cut Grayson’s lead to 14-12 at the half.
Grayson coach Mickey Conn couldn’t help but be impressed with Clemons.
“That quarterback they have is extremely talented,” Conn said. “I thought he did a great job.”
But as well as Clemons did, rarely does a first-time starter get through a game without making mistakes, and that was true Saturday.
Clemons was picked off by Grayson’s Ryan Carter midway through the fourth quarter, and Carter returned the interception for nearly 70 yards, all the way back to the McEachern 8-yard line. The Indians held Grayson (1-0) to a field goal, but those three points gave the Rams a two-possession lead at 24-12.
The second miscue for Clemons was losing a fumble on a bad handoff, and Grayson scored four plays later on a 34-yard touchdown run by Jordan Germany, putting the game out of reach.
“I think there some things we did well. We’ve got good players and good talent but made a lot of simple mistakes,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “From Game 1 to Game 2, we want to improve a great deal. If you want to be honest about it, I thought we played like I thought we would. We were fighting tooth and nail with them, but we just made some critical mistakes at critical times.”
The Indians also struggled early to adapt to Grayson’s run-oriented Wing T offense. All of the Rams’ 294 offensive yards came on the ground, led by Germany’s 85 yards on eight carries. Three other rushers, including Clemson-bound recruit Robert Nkemdiche, had 50 yards or more.
Grayson moved the ball, and the clock, well on its first two drives. Wayne Gallman scored first from 16 yards out to end a 10-play first series, and Nkemdiche snuck in from 4 yards out on the following drive, which lasted 11 plays.
“They just give you so many different looks up front,” Hockman said. “Not having any film on them this year, we weren’t sure what number their tight end was. It took us a couple of series to figure all that out and make adjustments based on who they were. Once we made the adjustments and knew who they were, we played pretty well.”
Once McEachern adapted defensively early in the second quarter, it forced Grayson to punt deep, and the Indians recovered two fumbles by the Rams before halftime. McEachern, however, could only get one touchdown out of those gifts.
“We just got used to the way they were running things and came harder on every play to make sure we can compete with these boys,” McEachern defensive linemen Jujuan Dulaney said.
McEachern recovered a Grayson fumble early in the fourth to give itself a fighting chance. Clemons responded by making key pass plays for first downs on the ensuing drive before his lone interception gave the momentum right back to the Rams.