Grayson’s Jordan Germany lays a lick on Colquitt County’s Willie Woodyard (11) during Friday’s Class AAAAA state semifinal game in Loganville, where Grayson won in the final seconds, 35-31. (Gwinnett Daily Post/Special to The Herald)
LOGANVILLE -- Grayson drove 87 yards in the final seven minutes to score a touchdown with 28 seconds left to defeat Colquitt County, 35-31, on Friday at Grayson Community Stadium and advance to its first state championship game in the Georgia Dome.
The nationally-ranked Rams, now 14-0, avenged a loss to the Packers last year that kept them from the finals.
The Packers -- which pulled off a miracle win of their own in the final seconds one week ago against No. 1 state-ranked Camden County -- had taken their first lead of the game at 31-28 on a 45-yard field goal by Oscar Luna with 7:17 left.
But the Rams would not let their season die.
On the game-winning drive, the Rams converted a third-and-18 to move the ball to their 42.
They also took advantage of two Colquitt County pass interference penalties in the final 1:35.
The first came on a fourth-and-3 at the Packers' 26. The second was in the end zone on a third-and-8 with 33 seconds left.
On the next play, Rams quarterback Nick Schuessler hit Marcus Lundquist from 6 yards out and the home stands erupted.
"What a way to win. I'm extremely proud of Nick Schuessler," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "We were mixing and matching and he just stayed in their with great poise and did what we had to do."
The Rams will go to the championship game for the first time after four trips to the semifinals. Grayson, which is ranked No. 5 in the nation by USA Today, will now play Walton next Saturday in the Georgia Dome for the Class AAAAA state championship.
The Packers rallied in the fourth quarter to eliminate the Rams last year, 31-24, to reach their first championship game since 1994. But once there, the Packers were defeated by Brookwood, 52-38, and were out to get another chance at the state championship.
But out for redemption was Schuessler, who was 2-for-11 for 33 yards against the Packers last year. This time around he hit 9-of-14 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
"We always kept our composure," Schuessler said. "We got the better end of some penalties.
"Man, a lot of people don't give us credit for passing in our offense. Marcus is one of my best friends. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's like the end of a movie that I would throw it to him."
The Packers, the only team in Class AAAAA to reach the semifinals each of the last three years, finish 11-3.
After Robert Nkemdiche's 1-yard touchdown put Grayson up 28-14 with 7:48 left in the third quarter, the Packers answered with three straight scores.
Sharmaine Washington got his second touchdown of the game with 5:51 left in the third quarter to bring the Packers to within seven.
Willie Woodyard also scored his second touchdown of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter to tie the game.
Luna's 16th field goal of the season put the Packers up by three.
But it was not enough.
After the Grayson touchdown with 38 seconds left, the Packers had one last gasp, but a Cole Segraves' pass to the end zone on the final play of the game fell incomplete.
The Packers had reached the semifinal game by defeated Camden County, 32-31, last week on a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 33 seconds left.
Segraves finished 15-of-23 for 237 yards and did not throw an interception. The Packers also rushed for 101 yards for 338 yards of offense.
Grayson, meanwhile, rolled up 439 yards of offense, including 290 on the ground.
And now the Rams are headed to the Dome to play for all the marbles -- again.
"We've been to three of them. We've lost two close ones and now won a close one," Conn said. "But this isn't where it ends. We wanted to win this game, so we can get to that next game. We're excited about the opportunity to play for the state championship."
Gwinnett Daily Post sports writer Brandon Brigman contributed to this story.