With their postseason hopes on the line, senior receiver Coray Keel and the South Gwinnett Comets refused to let down against their Region 8-AAAAAA rival, the Grayson Rams. Keel caught three touchdown passes and – along with a huge special teams play – the Comets defeated the visiting Rams, 28-21, on Friday at Richard Snell Community Stadium.
“It was a good win for us,” said Keel, who finished with four catches for 95 yards and touchdown receptions of 6, 17 and 61 yards. “Going into this game I knew I had to do anything I could to help my teammates. Grayson is one of the big time rivalries, so beating them my senior year was very important to me.”
The win keeps South Gwinnett (3-4) in the hunt for a top four finish in the region, where the Comets own a 2-3 record. The Rams (4-4, 4-2) entered the evening in second place, but have put themselves back in the fold with the rest of the pack behind first-place Archer.
The Rams had shutout the Comets the previous two seasons a combined 81-0, but didn’t bring their best effort to South Gwinnett on Friday. Three Grayson encroachment penalties – two of which came on South Gwinnett third downs – helped the Comets to march the field and score on their opening drive. In the second quarter, a Grayson turnover on downs led to Keel’s 61-yard touchdown reception four plays later.
On the Rams’ ensuing possession, they marched 44 yards to the South Gwinnett 30, but then were called for a 15-yard penalty, followed by a sack for an 8-yard loss. Forced to punt on fourth-and-28 from their own 46, a bad snap led to a blocked punt recovered by the Comets’ Patrick Richards, who ran for a touchdown to put South Gwinnett ahead 21-7 with 42 seconds left in the first half.
The Rams committed turnovers on four consecutive possessions from the second to third quarters, which allowed the Comets to keep Grayson at arm’s length.
A 25-yard touchdown run from Cameryn Brent (25 carries, 205 yards) pulled Grayson to within 21-14, but South Gwinnett responded with Keel’s third touchdown, a 6-yard catch with 6:24 left in the game. The Rams saved their best drive for the end, moving 90 yards in less than two minutes to score on Chase Brice’s 13-yard pass to Jordan Hayes with 22 seconds left, bringing the score to its final tally. South Gwinnett recovered the ensuing onside kick.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our kids,” Comets coach John Small said. “Everyone wrote them off, but our kids know how to fight. And they’ve gotten better each week.”
Grayson 7 0 7 7 – 21
South Gwinnett 6 15 0 7 – 28
S – Coray Keel 17 pass from Josh Shim (kick failed)
G – Aares McCall 30 pass from Chase Brice (Austin Hoyt kick)
S – Keel 61 pass Shim (Trevon Vallery pass from Shim)
S – Patrick Richards punt block return (Roberto Lindsay kick)
G- Cameryn Brent 25 run (Hoyt kick)
S – Keel 6 pass from Shim (Lindsay kick)
G – Jordan Hayes 13 pass from Brice (Hoyt kick)
Follow Adam Krohn on Twitter @AdamKrohnAJC.