Colquitt County’s Anthony Brumbley (3) and Creig Harris (96) were big parts of the Packers’ enormous upset win last Friday against Camden County and running back Shaquann Brock (11). (Connie Southwell/The Moultrie Observer)
MOULTRIE -- When Moultrie's Moe Knighton greets visitors at the entrance to Colquitt County High School, he is always willing to comment quickly and briefly on the state of Packer football.
He'll go on at length if there are no other vehicles lined up, just like he was this week in assessing tonight's Colquitt County-Grayson GHSA Class AAAAA semifinal in Loganville.
Want To Go, Watch or Listen?
WHO: Colquitt (11-2) at Grayson (13-0).
WHAT: GHSA Class AAAAA Final Four.
WHEN: 7 p.m. today.
TV: WSB or GHSA.tv.
RADIO: 93.9 FM.
IF WIN: Will face winner of Lassiter vs. Walton on Dec. 10 in Georgia Dome.
"If we don't go up there and win, everything we did (in the win) at Camden County (last week) was for nothing," he said before waving the visitor on and reaching for his clipboard.
It was a sentiment echoed by several Packer backers this week.
The Packers got a touchdown pass from Cole Segraves to Bobby Hill on a fourth-and-23 with 33 seconds left to pull to within a point of the top-ranked Wildcats in Kingsland last Friday.
Packers coach Rush Propst then decided against sending out automatic Oscar Luna to get a tie and try to win in overtime.
Instead, he opted to go for two points and a lead, leaving nearly everyone in Chris Gilman Stadium to think he was going to give the ball to big fullback Sharmaine Washington.
But Propst fooled everyone.
Instead, the Packers showed run, but Segraves found tight end Ty Smith alone in the back of the end zone on a play put in several weeks earlier called simply "Hyde." The pass was true, Smith snatched it -- and Camden's state title hopes with it -- as the Packers hung on for the upset.
But that outstanding finish will become a mere afterthought if the Packers can't find a way to beat Grayson tonight.
The Packers have made the semifinals three years in a row now, losing to Camden in 2009 and rallying to beat Grayson last year before falling in the state championship game to Brookwood.
Now the question remains: Can the Packers take the next step?
Colquitt County offensive coordinator Jeff Hammond says there is one thing the Packers must do if they are to have a chance to knock off the 13-0 Rams, who are ranked as high as No. 4 in one national poll.
"We have got to be able to run the football," Hammond said.
And he knows that is not going to be easy.
Colquitt ran for just 91 yards on 27 attempts against Camden County and the Grayson defense might actually be better.
The Rams give up an average of 31.7 rushing yards a game and no opponent has run for more than 89.
The Grayson 3-4 defense is led by defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who is ranked as the top junior prospect in the nation.
Packers coach Rush Propst said he expects the Grayson staff to move Nkemdiche around, but for the most part, the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder with 15 sacks this season will line up opposite Colquitt County senior right tackle Preston Mobley.
But Propst and Hammond both say there is more to the Grayson defense than just Nkemdiche.
Junior linebacker Wayne Gallman, who also starts at running back, also is an outstanding player.
"And they do a great job of coaching," Hammond said, giving kudos to Grayson head coach Mickey Conn and defensive coordinator Robert Andrews. "Their kids play fast."
The Packers will try to find a way to penetrate the Grayson defense behind a line that has junior Octavius Jackson at the other tackle, senior Alex Murphy at left guard and junior Dalton Dillon at right guard. All-State senior Bryce Giddens will be the center.
Leading rusher Willie Woodyard, a senior, will be the Packers' feature back. The 5-11, 195-pounder has rushed for 859 yards on 154 carries and has scored six touchdowns. He also has caught 29 passes, including a 75-yarder on a screen pass for a touchdown against North Gwinnett in the second round of the playoffs.
Woodyard had 11 carries for 45 yards against Camden.
Tre Cooper, coming off an outstanding game catching the football against the Wildcats, will be the H-back.
The 5-foot-8, 155-pounder caught five passes against Camden, including two in the game winning drive. The first was a 30-yard, first-down stretch-and-grab catch that put the ball on the Camden 34.
Three plays later, he snagged another Segraves pitch and took it to the Camden 8.
Segraves will make his 14th start at quarterback for the Packers and has completed 145 of 244 passes for 1,878 yards and 17 touchdowns. His touchdown pass to Hill and conversion toss to Smith, however, will become part of Packer lore.
Hill, who had eight catches against Camden and has 32 for the season, including eight for scores, will be one receiver, while Tavares Ward will be the other.
Smith, the University of Georgia-committed tight end, leads the Packers with 41 catches for 686 yards and five touchdowns and will start at tight end.
Tyler Yost will do the punting.
Luna, who has converted 42-of-43 extra point attempts and 15-of-17 field goal tries, including a 51-yarder against Camden, will do the place-kicking and will kick off.
Defensively, Colquitt County will start Wayne Jackson and Jamiyus Pittman at the ends and Travis Register and Brett Smith at the tackles.
But the Packers will substitute often on the line, bringing in Creig Harris, Quan Nelson, Michael Parrish and Taphari Wright.
Washington, who leads the Packers with 131 tackles, will start at the strong side linebacker. John Gray, with 130 tackles and a 55-yard fumble return for a touchdown last week, will be the middle linebacker. Anthony Brumbley will start on the weak side.
Johnny Ward, E'Darius Davis and Stacey Blackwell will play the corner positions. Trey Scott, Jamal Phillips and Dondray Copeland will get most of the work at safety.
Grayson, the Region 8 champions, have defeated Collins Hill, 32-7, Lowndes, 25-17, and West Forsyth, 33-7, in the playoffs. All three games have been at home.
The Packers opened the postseason with 31-10 victory against East Coweta at Tom White Field at Mack Tharpe Stadium, then went to Suwanee to eliminate North Gwinnett and to Kingsland to oust Camden County.
Offensively against the Wildcats, the Packers were able to convert third downs, stay on the field and wear down the Camden defense.
"We sustained some drives early that allowed us to move the ball later," Hammond said. "I think (the Wildcats) were exhausted."
The Packers will need more of the same tonight.
"Now we've got to turn around and play another great football team," Hammond said. "We've had to run the gauntlet. It's not gotten any easier. But we've just got to forget what we've done. We've got to concentrate on this one game.
"And I think these guys really want to put us over the top."