Knights shock Woodward 14-10 in lightning-shortened game

Credit-Alex Tonico

Grady receiver Cincere Mason comes to the sideline after a series in the Knights' 14-10 win over second-ranked Woodward Academy on Friday, Aug. 26 at Grady Stadium. The game was shorted by a Georgia High School Association 11 p.m. curfew rule.

Alex Langan

Lightning nor Woodward Academy could stop the Knights from knocking off the No. 2-ranked team in Class AAAA, 14-10, in a defensive struggle tonight to open the season 2-0.

The Knights take on Ware County in two weeks in Waycross in South Georgia. The 1-1 Gators entered this week ranked No. 4 in AAAAA but lost tonight 17-10 to Glynn Academy. Grady entered the game in a tie for 12th in the rankings with Carver-Atlanta and Loganville. Other ranked AAAAA teams losing, included No. 3 Bainbridge, 29-12 to Lee County, No. 6 Rome, 22-20 to Harrison and No. 10 Woodland, 51-12 to Valdosta. Three ranked teams didn’t play this week.

“At the end of the day, we wanted to make sure we put forth a great effort,” coach Earthwind Moreland said of Grady’s win. Moreland said he disregarded pre-game predictions by the Maxwell Ratings that the Knights would fall by nearly 30 points to Woodward.

“We weren’t really concerned about the number of points they said they’d beat us by,” Moreland said. “At the end of the day, they know we have to play inside the white lines and people can say certain things. But at the end of the day, you have to play the game.”

Grady drove 96 yards on 11 plays with a key 54-yard run by senior quarterback Caylin Newton to the Woodward 22-yard line. The Knights capped the scoring, sealing the game with a 1-yard Newton quarterback sneak with 6:30 left in the game.

Woodward attempted to drive as the game came to a close with 5:18 left because of an 11:30 p.m. Georgia High School Association curfew rule. The game was delayed 30 minutes after halftime because of lightning.

Grady grabbed momentum at the 9:57 mark of the first quarter after intercepting a Woodward pass, halting a War Eagles’ drive at the Grady 25-yard line. The Knights capitalized, on a 6-play, 75-yard scoring drive, highlighted by a Newton 31-yard keeper and a 25-yard run from tailback Jeffrey Black to set up first-and-goal at the 10-yard line.

Senior tailback DiMarcus Clay finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:55 left in the quarter. Grady led 7-0 after a successful point-after kick.

Woodward answered with an 8-play drive, capped by a 23-yard field goal by senior kicker Martin Rodriguez after a big hit by Clay, which held the War Eagles on 3rd down. Grady led  7-3 with 2:55 left in the first period.

The Knights failed to answer the field goal, gaining just one first down on the ensuing drive.

Woodward mimicked Grady’s series stalling on its next drive, which resulted in a punt to the Grady 28.

A promising Knights’ drive to the War Eagles’ 46-yard line lost steam as a personal foul led to a 3rd-and-21 at Grady’s 42-yard line. Woodward recovered a botched punt at Grady’s 24, but sophomore running back Tahj Gary fumbled the ball back to the Knights at Grady’s 12-yard line. The Knights’ Christian Jones recovered the ball on what would have been a first-down effort by the War Eagles.

Grady began the series after the fumble recovery  with an 8-yard rush by Clay, and then followed up with a 2-yard quarterback keeper from Newton for a first down. The Knights then gained 9 yards and 2 feet over the following three plays, leaving a 4th down and inches. Moreland elected to go for it, and succeeded as Newton carried to the Grady 32 for the first down.

On first down, Newton looked to pass to Kemari Averett, and the Woodward defense was called for pass interference, bringing Grady to its own 49. Clay rushed to the Woodward 38 on the following play. Two plays, with only six yards gained, later, the Knights were left with 4th-and-4. Moreland again elected to go for it, but the Knights were stopped 2 yards short on Newton’s pass to tight end John Peace.

Grady’s defense shut down Woodward after the War Eagles took over on downs, with two straight passes broken up and a sack on Woodward quarterback Ryan Glover, leading to another Woodward punt.

Rodriguez’s punt was not returned and rolled  to the Grady 18-yard line with 41 seconds left in the first half.

The Knights could not make anything of the last series in the first half as they let the clock run out after a Newton scramble out of bounds and a screen to Clay on which Clay failed to get out of bounds at the Grady 20.

With Grady leading 7-3 at halftime, the referees called for a lightning delay with a storm in the area.

Grady got off to a hot start in the second half, but was again plagued by a turnover in the redzone. Averett fumbled as he was falling to the ground on a pass that would have been a 52-yard gain to the Woodward 6.

Instead, the War Eagles picked up possession and began rolling immediately.

On an 8-play, 92-yard drive, Glover led the War Eagles to score on a pass to senior wide receiver Shultan Shabazz. Rodriguez added the extra point to give Woodward its first lead, 10-7.

On the kickoff, Rodriguez kicked the ball out of bounds at the 1-yard line, just shy of a touchback, to earn a penalty and set up the Knights at their own 35. After a pair of scrambles by Newton and an offsides penalty on Woodward, the Knights set up at the 50. The following play, Newton threw to receiver Jacquez Sloan, who took the ball to the Woodward 36. The drive ended on downs as Newton could not find Averett in the endzone on 4th-and-17 from the 36.

After a 3-and-out by Woodward to start the 4th quarter, the War Eagles punted to the Grady 4. Newton and the Knights answered as the senior quarterback led the 96-yard, game-clinching drive capped  by his 1-yard sneak into the endzone. Kicker Max Menzies added the extra point to give the lead back to Grady midway through the fourth quarter, 14-10.

Glover attempted to lead the War Eagles to a last-second comeback, but the game was called for time at 11:30 p.m. because of the GHSA curfew, giving the Knights the 14-10 victory.

-With reporting by Alex Tonico

 

 

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