Grayson 24, Walton 0

It took Grayson 12 seasons of varsity football to get to its first championship game. It took less than a half to win it.

Grayson (15-0) took a 24-point lead in the second quarter, held Walton to minus-19 yards in the first half and won 24-0 in the Class AAAAA final Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

It was the first shutout in a championship of Georgia’s highest classification since Lowndes beat Brunswick 17-0 in 1999. The shutout was preserved when Grayson stopped a fourth-and-2 at the Grayson 6 with 2:16 left.

Grayson took command early after a couple of long passes by Nick Schuessler, a punt return by Ryan Carter and a defense that held the state’s leading rusher, Tyren Jones, to 78 yards on 16 carries. Jones had a 52-yard run in the final minutes when the outcome was not in doubt.

On Walton’s first possession, defensive back David Kamara forced a fumble after a short pass, and linebacker Jay Strickland recovered at the Walton 42. Grayson scored on 10 running plays – eight by 270-pound Robert Nkemdiche – and led 7-0.

“When we got that turnover, we got Robert going downhill, and that gave our kids a little confidence,’’ Grayson coach Mickey Conn said. “We were a little nervous coming into this thing for obvious reasons. The turnover kind of got everyone to feel at ease.’’

Better known as a patient running team, Grayson broke the game open on the arm of Schuessler, who threw two touchdown passes to Callen Hightower.

Facing a third-and-18 late in the first quarter, Schuessler (3-of-3 passing, 108 yards) hit Corey Schaeffer on a 42-yard post pattern to set up a field goal. Then with 9:28 left in the half, Schuessler hit Hightower on another post for a 45-yard touchdown that made it 17-0.

“We knew we could beat them with the run, but as soon as their safeties started creeping in, the coach made a good call and we beat them over the top,’’ Schuessler said.

At that point, Gayson led in total yards 163 to 1.

Then Grayson showed off its special teams when Carter went 67 yards on a punt return to the Walton 11. On the next play, Schuessler hit Hightower for a touchdown pass for a 24-0 lead.

Schuessler entered the game with efficient statistics – 93-of-154 passing for 1,506 yards and 17 touchdowns with three interceptions – but in a run-dominated offense that doesn’t allow the quarterback to shine that often.

‘’Nick is so underrated that these people don’t have a clue,’’ Conn said. “A quarterback is a leader. He’s someone who wins. He took us to the semifinals last year and the final this year. It’s unbelievable what he means to us.’’

The game featured Walton’s strong offense line and the running of Jones against Grayson’s top-rated defense. Jones had 2,299 yards entering the game, but Grayson held Walton to negative rushing yardage until Jones’ 52-yarder in the final minutes put Walton deep in Grayson territory for the only time in the game.

Jones had changed from jersey No. 1 to No. 20 on that possession because his original had been torn. His yardage initially was credited to Jacob Murphy, a sophomore defensive back.

Nkemdiche, the top-rated junior defensive tackle in the country according to most recruiting services, outgained Walton and Jones with his 85 yards on 19 carries. Walton finished with 58 yards on the ground.

Nkemdiche thought Grayson had held Jones to less than 50.

‘’We were waiting for him to play a defense like ours,’’ Nkemdiche said. “I’m pretty sure he didn’t get over 50 yards rushing. We average like 36 [allowed] a game. Our defense played great.’’

Grayson, which opened in 2000, became the eighth team from Gwinnett County to win the highest classification since 1996. Cobb County was denied its first state champion since 1967.

Grayson 10-14-0-0 – 24
Walton 0-0-0-0 – 0

G – Robert Nkemdiche 3 run (KallenRhodes kick)
G – Rhodes 34 FG
G – Callen Hightower 45 pass from Nick Schuessler (Rhodes kick)
G – Hightower 11 pass from Schuessler (Rhodes kick)

132 comments Add your comment


December 10th, 2011
10:51 pm

Incredible defense.


December 10th, 2011
11:01 pm

Gwinnett teams win 8 of the last 15. Impressive. And I am not in Gwinnett. Should be interesting with the new classifications. Will Gwinnett have to play each other in the early rounds? Region 1 will not to their benefit. Will the Gwinnett dominance change? Well, Grayson has 9 defensive starters returning not to mention what will pop up. They could repeat but, in AAAAAA that will be very hard to do. You might do that in A or AA but after that?

The stage is set, Region wants it all, Regions 7 and 8 want to keep things North. Buford moves up to AAA. Let the shifting of players begin!


December 10th, 2011
11:02 pm

Congratulation to the Grayson Rams; I pick you to win it all several weeks ago…:)


December 10th, 2011
11:04 pm

Stephenson & MLK will be moving down next year inwhich you will see Dekalb County dominating AAAAA next year like tucker just did in the AAAA State championship! Tucker will move up to AAAAA next year which will make Dekalb County region a powerhouse. “CAN’T WAIT”, LET THE GAMES BEGIN…:)


December 10th, 2011
11:05 pm

Congrats Grayson. In the words of cousin Eddie, “Clark, The last time I saw a beatin’ that bad someone stuck a banana in my pants and turned a monkey loose”.


December 10th, 2011
11:07 pm

You go Gwinnett County…Yes


December 10th, 2011
11:10 pm

Top 10 things heard on the Walton sidelines . . .

10. Has anyone seen my Superman outfit?
9. Where’s the offensive line?
8. I thought I was the only #1
7. Who’s covering #8?
6. Where’s my jock strap?
5. My ears are ringing.
4. We need to sell the big head before it’s worthless
3. OUCH!
2. Why didn’t we recruit Nkemdiche?
1. I should have moved to Grayson


December 10th, 2011
11:17 pm

Wow……Props to Grayson and their defense. Outstanding performance.

I was at the game and I’ve NEVER seen an offensive line get WHIPPED in a State Championship Game between 2 “supposed” equal teams the way Walton’s was tonight. Tyren Jones was getting hit as soon as he got the handoff.

Cobb County……as a resident here since January 2007…..We are NOT ready. That was a mismatch of all mismatches at the line of scrimmage.

Walton….Keep your head up and build on this season….But you guys need to hit the weightroom and man-UP…..because they took your manhood tonight.


December 10th, 2011
11:29 pm

# 11. How about those SAT scores Grayson?


December 10th, 2011
11:32 pm

Walton was an embarrasment to Cobb County football tonight.

Packer Backer

December 10th, 2011
11:37 pm

that was not a championship match up game….this level of game should have been between 2 teams that atleast were equally matched. I cheered for Walton just because they were underdogs and not favored to win other then that I don’t know anything about the team. But apparently something went wrong in the brackets this year …. All the tough games were played on the left side of the bracket. Championship games are games played and scored like Camden and Colquitt or Grayson and Colquitt this year! It’s no fun watching one team get walked all over especially when it’s for the championship!

Nike 11

December 10th, 2011
11:47 pm

Walton looked lost the first quarter and a half of the game. I was very surprised. I thought they would come out better than that. Relying on Jones so much and never having to face any real adversity this year until the last couple games hurt them. It didn’t seem like they were mentally tough and when they got down early, that was it.

Cobb is still a couple years away from having top to bottom programs like teams in South Ga and in Gwinnett. But they are getting closer.

HS Football Fan

December 10th, 2011
11:49 pm

Congratulations to Grayson, but still proud to be a Walton Raider.

The team played with class and heart from game 1 to game 15; the Raider Nation is still strong and proud!

Football FAn

December 10th, 2011
11:51 pm

You know what…there have been blowouts in Super Bowls, SEC title games and BCS National Happens! Walton got whipped but don’t say they shouldn’t have been there…they played the bracket laid out in front of them. Congrats to Walton on a great season. All these other shoulda, woulda, coulda teams can cry until next season and then actually put up or shut up!

Congrats to Grayson…Job Well Done!


December 10th, 2011
11:52 pm

I hate to agree….but Walton was an “embarrassment” tonight. I wonder if they started “smelling” themselves and “believing” that were that good…..

From the offensive line….to the stubborn offensive playcalling in terms of the repeated running plays when the Grayson defensive line was 4-5 yards in your backfield on every play….to allowing a receiver to get 15-20 yards behind your safety for a TD… allowing a long punt return.

I’ve attended 12 of Walton’s 15 games this season……and honestly, Cobb County is so far behind [based on Walton being 14-0 going into this game]………I simply don’t understand how a team can get dominated that badly in a Championship Game.

Walton was NOT prepared for this game………Not even close to it.

I also agree that Tyren Jones basically carried Walton this year…..but no matter how good a RB is…….he can NOT beat a great team Defensive Team like Grayson alone….especially with absolutely pathetic blocking by his offensive line.

That 1st half was bad…..REALLY BAD!


December 10th, 2011
11:58 pm

@John- before you go and make accusations or assumptions about SAT scores do your homework on how many past players are on scholarship in college from Grayson. Is that the best you can do? Gwinnett was given the National Award for Excellence last year based on students performance in classrooms. This blog is about football… Walton got schooled tonight.


December 11th, 2011
12:04 am

Anyone notice that they changed Tyren Jones’s jersey? He wore #20 for the second half of the game. That was NOT the guy they said it was. I saw him change on the sidelines. What was up with that? Guess Grayson had his number.


December 11th, 2011
12:05 am

@Football FAn: You are a mean spirited person. I can tell from the tone of your posts. But I digress. The poster was right, all the tough teams were all on one side of the bracket. To me the championship game this year for AAAAA was the semi-final game between Grayson and Colquitt. Those were two of the best teams in the state and it was a championship quality game. Grayson became the champions the night they beat Colquitt County. It just became official tonight against Walton, a game that was not even a challenge for Grayson. It was very, very clear that Walton was out of their league tonight.
Congrats to Grayson, you all have one heck of a team and deserve to be the State Champions!!

Grayson Scott

December 11th, 2011
12:06 am

Started the season with a shutout of a Cobb county team at the Dome, and bookended it with another shotout of a Cobb county team at the Dome! What a game and season for the best defense in the state of GA! Congrats, Grayson Rams! And just think 9 returning starters from the defense next year! Look for a repeat!

PS – No disrespect Walton, but I think it’s evident Colquitt County is #2 team in AAAAA this year,


December 11th, 2011
12:08 am

oh…nix that…saw the reference in the article


December 11th, 2011
12:11 am

Hadn’t occurred to me until this moment that Walton joined a rather substantial list of teams shut out by Grayson this year. Didn’t expect it though. It’s true that there were much better games on the left side of the bracket in previous weeks by teams that I think could have defeated Walton.

BullDawg Rick

December 11th, 2011
12:15 am

Congrats to the Rams of Grayson…

Keeping the State Championship in the best sports county in the state of Georgia – Gwinnett County

Congrats to Walton for making the trip to the Dome…

Grayson is going to be as good (better, maybe??) next season with the #1 player in the nation lining up on either side of the ball!


December 11th, 2011
12:21 am

There is one thing that all Gwinnett Teams have in common….an unbelievable competitive youth feeder program called the Gwinnett Football League. Each school has a park nearby where kids wear the team colors, are called the Rams or Broncos or Bulldogs or Panthers, etc, etc…..and play against each other in travel ball fashion from the 1st through the 8th grades. The boys you saw playing tonight have been running the Grayson Hybrid Wing T since they were in the 5th grade – same nomenclature, same formations, same everything….and they been sharpening their swords against county rivals since the age of six……and Coach Conn “gets” it. He is fully vested in the kids and the youth coaches, opening up the filed house to run coaching clinics to teach volunteer coaches the Ram way. From what u gear about other counties and other programs, no one does it quite like Gwinnett.

Afghan Killer

December 11th, 2011
12:44 am

Congrats To Grayson and Coach Conn . We streamed the game here in Afghanistan. I agree with Packer Backer its a shame that a team in the championship game couldn’t even score. Walton great season on your behalf be proud of your accomplishments.Grayson unbelieveable season prouder than hell to say I live in Grayson.

[...] Originally Posted by aries4118 More from Grayson–now that they are in the title game against Walton: Grayson has new rap video for state championship vs. Walton | Prep Zone: High School Sports This Is Our Year – YouTube Enjoy! Grayson 24, Walton 0 | Prep Zone: High School Sports [...]


December 11th, 2011
1:15 am

John, You don’t bring SAT scores to a championship football game. That’s all you got; I’m guessing ;)

Proud to be a Raider

December 11th, 2011
1:21 am

Congrats to Grayson, but congrats to Walton on a great season. 14-1. Not so bad. #36 on Grayson should have gotten the player of the game award. He was the size of a linebacker, was lightning FAST and played defensive tackle. He singlehandedly blew up 40% of Walton’s plays in the first half. There was simply no way to stop him (other than illegally chop block him like Tech did to Georgia on the second play of the game this year). Grayson – Fairly won and your’s to treasure. We salute you. Raiders, well done.


December 11th, 2011
1:27 am

Walton deserves a little more respect. They had a bad night for sure but Walton is certainly not the only team to have trouble moving the ball against the Rams. Really only Coquitt has had alot of success against Graysons defense running their spread very effectively two years in a row.
I don’t think you can say beacuse of what happened tonight that other teams would beat Walton.

East Cobb Dad

December 11th, 2011
1:27 am

I thinks there was a real paradox of having the easiest bracket, (especially with Valdosta getting upset in round 1). It may have allowed Walton to have an easier path to Dome, but it also meant not having progressively more difficult teams to play/develop against in anticipation of this game against Grayson. Congratulations to Grayson, they were dominating.

Proud to be a Raider

December 11th, 2011
1:28 am

Oh yeah. When you win Two State Championships in the Fall Sports and are the semifinalist in the other AND you have the highest number of National Merit Scholars in the State AND more of your kids on the State Championship teams get academic scholarships than sports scholarships, I guess you are bringing your SATs to the championship games.

Football FAn

December 11th, 2011
1:37 am

@ Scott…I am far from mean spirited…I just don’t want everyone too Poo Poo Walton’s season and what they accomplished this year by saying they shouldn’t have been in the game….I only pointed out that they didn’t set the bracket…they played the hand they were dealt and made it to the championship game…and like I said, blowouts have happened in the championship game at every level (High School, College and Professional). So just because the game was lopsided doesn’t mean Walton didn’t belong. Grayon dominated this matchup but they dominated a whole lot of good teams this year.

Congrats to Walton and Grayson on outstanding seasons!


December 11th, 2011
1:41 am

Grayson was destined to WIN. Kudos to both teams and their stellar records getting to the championship game. Remember the things that matter most and the support provided from the fans and families from both sides, without them, all is lost, with them, so much hope is guaranteed, win or lose. Both of these teams are champions in their own way.
Now, I pray that the Holiday season will inspire all involved and propel you to new heights, Most especially those whom honor God and HIS precious Son, Jesus Christ.
Let’s celebrate something BIG. The Birth of Christ.

Ram Proud

December 11th, 2011
1:57 am

Dear Proud to be a Raider, you can bring those SAT scores to the Dome tonight, but the only score that mattered was 24-0.

ACC12-SEC12 Booster

December 11th, 2011
2:07 am

Come on, everybody lay off of Walton. The Raiders had a very, very good year as a team does not go 14-0 enroute to the title game without being very good on the field, so congratulations to the Walton Raiders on having a great season as what they accomplished this season should by no means be discounted.

It’s just that on Saturday Night, the Raiders ran into a team that was much, much, MUCH more PHYSICAL than any other team in the state of Georgia in the Grayson Rams.

The Walton Raiders proved with their play through the season that they more than belonged in the AAAAA State Championship Game, it’s just that the Grayson Rams also more than belonged in the game and wanted it more than anything else in the world and knew how to use their bigger, more imposing size, greater strength, more impressive athleticism and better coaching to get what they wanted.

It’s been a long time coming for Coach Mickey Conn who started from scratch building the Grayson Rams football program from the ground up 12 years ago.

Congratulations to Coach Conn and the Rams Nation for finally achieving their longtime goal and bringing the AAAAA State Title back to Gwinnett where it belongs once again.

To reiterate what blowfish stated on December 11th, 2011 at 12:21 am, the existence of the Gwinnett Football League continues to pay dividends with the past two and 8 of the last 15 state titles in the state’s largest classification being won by Gwinnett teams.

Jim B

December 11th, 2011
2:09 am

proud to be a Raider , oh yeah i guess you all should have won then. you make me sick.

Walton Girls' Tennis

December 11th, 2011
2:11 am

Congratulations to Grayson on your first State Championship. It’s a great feeling. We’ve got eight of them. In a row.

Proud to be a Raider

December 11th, 2011
2:16 am

Jim B: Inscrutable. As always. Hope you get well real soon.

Proud to be a Raider

December 11th, 2011
2:22 am

Ram Proud: Congratulations on your first State Championship in any sport.

ACC12-SEC12 Booster

December 11th, 2011
2:27 am

Ram Proud

December 11th, 2011
1:57 am

“Dear Proud to be a Raider, you can bring those SAT scores to the Dome tonight, but the only score that mattered was 24-0.”

I agree that in this game, the only score that mattered was the final score, but in the greater scheme of things, academic performance matters even more as the players on the field are student-athletes, meaning that they are STUDENTS FIRST and athletes second.

Grayson may have been the better team on the field on Saturday Night and Walton may be the better school academically, being one of the very best public high schools in the state of Georgia and in the entire Southeast, but Grayson ain’t exactly no slouch either when it comes to academic performance:

Those kids that were out there on the field for Grayson aren’t just a bunch of meatheads or dumb jocks, but were out there because they are some very smart kids out there playing for the love of the sport of football and because they’re trying to play and earn their way to full-ride scholarships to pay their college tuition.

Grayson may be excellent on the gridiron, but just like Walton, Grayson is also excellent in the classroom as well.

Valdosta Alum

December 11th, 2011
3:01 am

Grats to the Backwater High, I mean Grayson High, Rams. Only 22 more state titles to go till u catch us…..Keep ur heads up!

Grayson Player

December 11th, 2011
3:19 am



December 11th, 2011
3:51 am

@Gryason Player congradulations on your tainted state championship the whole state seen how ya’ll beat us walton aint nobody 24 points that the best ya’ll can do im no hater but i wouldnt have nun to say if we wouldnt have been cheated out of a game thats a big pill to swallow but big up to the cheater of grayson an there tainted glory lol


December 11th, 2011
4:01 am

Hey raider nation fans….See I told you that Lassiter would have represented COBB better. Shoulda, coulda, wounda. You were just lucky that Lassiter did not beat you anyways.

Grayson Student

December 11th, 2011
4:09 am

@packer4life …


December 11th, 2011
6:44 am



December 11th, 2011
6:50 am

I told you walton had not played a top 10 def. all year! you see what happened when they did. and you got to have a backup plan when the running game is shut down. walton if your going to stick to the ground game go out and get you a big fullback that can help carry the load and catch out of the backfield for nxt. year


December 11th, 2011
7:03 am

packer4life gets my vote for the most irrelevant and uneducated comment on this site. Typical, though, of those meatheads in South GA who can’t accept that there frequently are better teams in the North. Hang in there, Cooter, the South might rise again and give you something more to live for. :)


December 11th, 2011
7:50 am

Valdosta Alum: Had to smile at your post, as you validated the stereotypes most people have about South Ga. athletics. Still waiting on your academic performance comments for your beloved Valdosta. I’m a Parkview alum from way back, and I applaud Coach Conn and his team. They are winners in many ways, some more important than football and academics. He’s teaching these kids character and integrity, and it doesn’t go unnoticed around Gwinnett County. Even if I am a Panther at heart.


December 11th, 2011
7:58 am

Congratulations to Grayson on wining and becoming the state champs!!!! Proud of my alma mater.

C/O 2002


December 11th, 2011
8:00 am