Valdosta Daily Times

November 18, 2011

Round 2: Vikings and Rams meet in clash of heavyweights

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — In recent weeks, the Lowndes Vikings have hit their stride.

Tonight, the Vikings, winners of their last three games, will face arguably their toughest test of the season when they visit the Grayson Rams in the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

While the Vikings have enjoyed recent success, the Rams have excelled all season, posting an undefeated record. Grayson isn’t just winning games, the Rams are dominating, winning by an average of 26 points per game.

“(Grayson) has a real quality team,” Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson said.

Four of Grayson’s 11 wins this season have come against teams that qualified for the Class AAAAA playoffs, including defending state champion Brookwood, who the Rams defeated 14-7 earlier this season.

Much like Stephenson, who the Vikings downed 7-0 last week in the first round of the state playoffs, the Rams run a wing-T style offense, which features a heavy load of running.

Unlike Stephenson, the Rams use a variety of running backs and not a dominant back like the Jaguars’ Mike Davis, who Lowndes held to 93 yards last week. Among the players that carry the ball for the Rams is junior Robert Nkemdiche, who averages 5.8 yards per carry while accounting for eight touchdowns this season. Nkemdiche also has 47 tackles for the Ram defense.  

While the Rams run their offense through a dominant running game, the passing game has been effective. Quarterback Nick Schuessler has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,171 yards with 12 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions.

“You just have to play sound defense,” McPherson said. “They make you cover the whole playbook, so you have to play sound defense.”

As for Lowndes, senior running back Mike Moore eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark last Saturday night against the Jaguars. Moore finished the contest with 105 yards rushing, while accounting for the only touchdown of the game.

The Vikings offense faces the tough task of moving the ball against the Grayson defense, which is allowing just over six points per game.

“We have to hit them in the mouth and don’t back down,” Lowndes quarterback Lance Jarriel said. “Even if they get a play or something, just keep going at them...We are going to go in there and throw everything at them. We have to run the ball good and pass the ball good. We have to have a combination of both to have a good game.”

Tonight’s meeting will be the second all-time meeting between the two schools, as they met in the 2008 quarterfinals. The Rams ended the Vikings’ title defense season with a 17-7 victory.

On Monday, McPherson said the 2008 meeting would not bring anything extra into tonight’s game, as no players on the current rosters participated in the ’08 meeting. On Wednesday, Jarriel said the players aren’t talking about the game, but are rather talking about this year’s game.

“Everyone remembers (2008),” Jarriel said. “We are not focused on that. It is a different team we are playing, we’re a different team and we just going up there trying to win the game. We are not really worried with what happened four years ago.”

Like always, Lowndes is expected to have a great fan turnout, as Lowndes County Schools will have early release today to provide fans enough time to make the journey to Loganville for the game.

“We are used to playing in a packed house,” McPherson said. “Our kids are just ready to compete.”

The early release won’t affect the players, as they departed for Gwinnett County on Thursday night. The Vikings will practice at another local area Gwinnett County high school during the afternoon hours before arriving at Grayson High School for the game.

Kickoff for tonight’s game is set for 7:30 p.m. at Grayson Community Stadium in Loganville. The game will be broadcast on WSB-TV in Atlanta.