Article provided by Alex Tonico of The Southerner.
A season starting with high hopes for a state championship ended on a last-second Woodland-Stockbridge kick. The 24-21 loss ended the Knights’ hopes in the second round of the state playoffs for the second consecutive year.
“Even though we didn’t accomplish everything we wanted, I’m still happy about our play and what we did this season,” said senior lineman Theron Anches
The Knights came out of the gates strong. They received the ball to start the game and made the best of their opportunity with a 6-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard rushing touchdown by senior quarterback Caylin Newton. Grady led 7-0 with 10:17 left in the first quarter.
The defense forced a 3-and-out on Woodland’s first possession.
The Knights second possession started at their own 20, and they drove to the Woodland 25 before a ball bounced off senior wide receiver Jacquez Sloan’s hands and was intercepted by the Wolfpack defense with 6:05 left in the first quarter.
The offense didn’t stop as it continued to drive the field and took a 21-7 lead with 4:56 left in the first half after a 15-yard run by senior tailback Jeffrey Black and a 39-yard pass to Sloan.
Woodland responded with two rushing touchdowns and tied the game with 2:38 left in the third quarter.
After a missed field goal attempt by junior kicker Quinn Cowden, the first attempted field goal of the year by the Knights, and an interception from Newton with 38 seconds left, the Wolfpack ran out routes and took advantage of penalties into Grady territory. Woodland kicker Tommy Herman drove a 40-yard field goal ball through the uprights to advance to the third round.
The Knights loss came a week after blowing out Walnut Grove 42-8 in the first round. Newton led the offense over the fourth-seeded Warriors who qualified for the playoffs for the first time. Newton combined for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) and Sloan hauled in touchdown passes of 52 yards and 75 yards while adding a 79-yard kick return.
Grady also faced many injuries throughout the season, similar to last year, when the team was also injury-riddled.
Junior defensive back Trysten Fowler tore his ACL during the team’s game against North Atlanta and was out for the season. Junior linebacker Jaleyn Rivers suffered a fractured leg in the middle of the season but was able to return for the last three games of the season.
Senior safety and tailback Cincere Mason also suffered a season-ending injury during the homecoming game against Maynard Jackson, tearing his ACL as well. Seniors Jalen Whitt and Emmanuel Sanders also suffered knee injuries late in the season to end their senior year and maybe their football careers.
While the Knights came up short of their goal, fans witnessed the Newton-Sloan quarterback-wide receiver duo both break Grady season records in the same season.
Newton became the first quarterback in Grady history to pass for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards in one season.
Senior tight end Kemari Averett finished tied for second in the class 5A for touchdown catches with 11. Fans also witnessed the sixth region championship in the 69 years of the school being established.
“It came down to the mistakes we made,” said head coach Earthwind Moreland. “At the end of the day, though, I love all those kids, and I’m looking forward to next season.”