It was a disappointing end to an otherwise promising season for No. 5-state ranked and Region 4-AAAA runner-up Griffin.
“Any time you lose it’s tough,” said 12th-year Bears head coach Steve DeVoursney. “It was tough when we lost to (current No. 4-state ranked) Stockbridge for the region championship and it was tough when we lost to Monroe on Friday night.”
Never mind Griffin — which opened the season with consecutive wins against Dutchtown 42-16, Northgate 35-6, then No. 9-state ranked Jonesboro 34-33 and Woodland-Stockbridge 52-20 — mounted a season-best winning streak of five games in-between the 17-14 loss on a 27-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to Stockbridge and last weekend’s season-ending loss to Monroe as it took down Riverdale 35-14, North Clayton 42-20, archrival Upson-Lee 28-14, crosstown rival Spalding 42-0 and Eagle’s Landing 49-6 in a region play-in game.
“The coaches and the players at Griffin continue to have high expectations,” said DeVoursney. “We had a good year, but you always want more.”
Nonetheless, Griffin managed to extend its school-record streak of consecutive state playoff appearances to 12, while posting nine or more wins for the ninth consecutive seasoning for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons.
In-between it all, there were plenty of moments for fans to enjoy this season:
* Game 1: Sophomore Malik Miller ran for touchdowns of 5, 10 and 37 yards and junior Jaquez Parks tossed touchdown passes of 28 and 40 yards as No. 7 state-ranked Griffin High rallied from a 16-7 halftime deficit to top Dutchtown 42-16.
* Game 2: Jaquez Parks threw a touchdown and ran for another as No. 6 state-ranked Griffin easily disposed of the Northgate Vikings 35-6 at Henry Seldon Field. Along the way, sophomore Malik Miller added his fourth and fifth touchdown runs of the season as Northgate (0-2) remained winless and Griffin (2-0) remained undefeated heading into its big showdown the next week at home against Jonesboro.
* Game 3: The ol’ Griffin gridiron magic continued. Down by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter in the home opener against No. 9-state ranked Jonesboro, junior quarterback Jaquez Parks threw touchdowns passes of 24 yards to Devontae Freeman and 17 yards to Quay Mangham to neatly rally No. 3-ranked Griffin to a 34-33 victory. It was the second year in a row Parks rallied the Bears from a two-score deficit against the Cardinals, the first coming in the opening round of the 2011 state playoffs.
* In Game 4: Devontae Freeman ran for three touchdowns and quarterback Jaquez Parks threw a pair of touchdown passes to Keyston Fuller to lead No. 3-state ranked Griffin past Woodland-Stockbridge 52-20. Leading 33-20 after Woodland scored on the opening drive of the second half, Griffin put the game away scoring on its next three possessions. The final quarter was played with a running clock as Griffin (4-0) remained undefeated.
* Game 5: Griffin fell 17-14 to Stockbridge on a 27-yard field goal with no time left on the clock. In the process, No. 2-state ranked Griffin had its 8-game regular-season win streak snapped and lost for the first time ever on the gridiron to a Henry County school. Griffin trailed 14-0 before a 2-yard TD run by Malik Miller with 2:07 left the Bears trailing 14-6 at the half. Miller scored on another short run with and Anforne’ Stroud hit Quay Mangham for the two-point conversion to the game 14-all with 3:30 left.
* Game 6: Quarterback Jaquez Parks threw for three touchdowns and Devontae Freeman scored three touchdowns to lead the No. 10 state-ranked Griffin to a 35-14 win against Riverdale at Tara Stadium. Griffin, which led 21-0 at the half, jumped out to a 28-0 lead — early in the third quarter — on the way to a 21-point win.
* Game 7: Devontae Freeman scored on a pair or runs, Nic Williams scored on another run and Jaquez Parks tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Quay Mangham as No. 9-state ranked Griffin High scored on its first four possessions to deliver a 42-20 homecoming win against North Clayton.
* Game 8: Jaquez Parks passed for three touchdowns and a career-high 273 yards to lead No. 8 state-ranked Griffin to a 28-14 win against archival Upson-Lee at Mathews Field as the Bears clinched first place in Region 4-AAAA Div. B and knocked the Knights out of playoff contention. Griffin jumped out to a 21-0 lead. While the Knights mounted a comeback in the form of a pair of two-play scoring drives late in the game, the Bears mounted a nifty 14-play, 57-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown 3-yard TD run by DeVontae Freeman with 1:29 left to ice the game.
* Game 9: The Griffin High offense was on fire, amassing a season-high 533 yards (333 passing and 200 rushing) of offense from scrimmage in a 42-0 win against crosstown rival Spalding. While Griffin High quarterback Jaquez Parks (15-19-1 for 181 yards and a TD — he also added a pair of TD runs) didn’t come close to his career-high mark of 273 yards passing set the week before in a 29-14 win at archrival Upson-Lee, Parks and backup Bears quarterback Anforne’ Stroud (10-11-0 for 152 yards and 2 TDs) combined to pass for what is believed to be a modern-day school record of 333 yards in a single game.
* Game 10: Quarterback Jaquez Parks tossed his 17th and 18th touchdowns of the season, while running back DeVontae Freeman ran for his 8th, 9th and team-leading 10th touchdowns as Griffin High punched its ticket into the Class AAAA state playoffs with a 49-6 win Friday at Memorial Stadium against Eagle’s Landing. In the process, the second-seeded Bears (9-1) extended their school-record consecutive state playoff streak to 12 years.
* Game 11: Griffin overcame an early 7-0 deficit when Keyston Fuller returned a punt 35 yards for one touchdown and Quantico Dodson returned an interception 60 yards for another to stake the Bears to a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. However, on a night where Griffin’s offense struggled it wasn’t enough as Monroe tied the game 14-all by the end of he first quarter. Griffin took its last lead of the season early in the second quarter on a drive when it faked a punt on fourth down and made it. It led to a 26-yard field goal by Alexis Rivera to give GHS a 17-14 lead. The Bears, however, didn’t score the rest of he way as Monroe led 20-17 at the half and 33-17 going into the fourth quarter.
“I think we got better as the year went on,” said DeVoursney. “I don’t know if the leadership got better, but all around in all three phases of the game we got better. The thing when I look back — football is a physical game — and looking at the Stockbridge and Monroe game we lost both physical games we played in this year. That’s something we’re going to have to address with the team for next year.”