By Thomas Grant Jr.

Another week, another high-profile matchup for Gray Collegiate Academy.

Having disposed of Class A defending champion Christ Church and holding off previously Class 4A ranked Crestwood in an offensive slugfest, the second-ranked Class 2A War Eagles now go outside of the South Carolina High School League for their next opponent.

This week, Gray Collegiate (2-0) travels to Eden Stadium to face defending SCISA Class 4A champion Hammond. The Skyhawks (1-1) picked up their 600th win in school history in the 47-0 shutout of Florence Christian.

The previous week, Hammond fell 42-13 to Prince Avenue Christian out of Athens, Ga.

“I have a lot of respect for those guys,” Gray Collegiate head coach Adam Holmes said. “They run a great program. I was glad we were able to get this game. I was telling my guys, if we can play with Crestwood like this, we can play with anybody and playing another great team like Hammond is only going to get us better. It’s going to get (Hammond) better. It’s why we both wanted to play this game.”

While it’s the first-ever meeting between the two schools, the coaching staffs are no strangers to each other. For Gray Collegiate head coach Adam Holmes, it’s a return to the place where he began his post-University of South Carolina playing career as an assistant under Erik Kimrey.

After five seasons, he left for Orangeburg Prep where his 2013 team handed Hammond School a 20-0 loss in Columbia.

“That was a long time ago, but it was great battle,” Holmes said. “That was a really good football team that I had there at Orangeburg Prep there in 2013. We went 11-2 (losing to Wilson Hall and Hammond in the SCISAA Class 3A semifinal). Went to Hammond and shut them out. I think that was the first time anybody shut them out in a long time.

“Coach (Joe) Wheeler does a great job over there. (Athletics Director) Jeff Barnes, we played together. I coached at Hammond for my first five years before going to Orangeburg Prep. So,

I have a lot of respect for those guys. They run a great program.”

Gray Collegiate is coming off a 62-60 victory over Crestwood in which the two teams combined for over 700 total yards of offense. The three-hour contest saw three players account for four touchdowns, one of them was wide receiver Jamarious Lockett.
With the Knights’ secondary focused on Zai Offord, Lockett was able to show off his pass-catching ability to the tune of nine receptions for 247 yards. Quarterback Tyler Waller threw his three touchdowns to Lockett, the other from fellow sophomore Dre’Von Dopson.

“I have a mentality that I’m going to win every rep, so I’ve got to do it,” he said. “I know I’ve got a good quarterback that’s going to throw it to me, so I’ve just got to go get it.”

While Crestwood All-State Class 3A quarterback Javion Martin and running back Azarian Rice each accounted for four touchdowns, Gray Collegiate’s defense stepped up in key moments. Aiden Keeger returned an interception of Martin into a touchdown and linebacker Michael Boulware stopped two, two-point conversions in the fourth quarter.

Gray Collegiate Academy defensive end Charlie Scarborough with the tackle of Crestwood running back Azarian Yates.

“What’s great about Michael is that he plays with a motor,” Holmes said. “He doesn’t stop. He runs to every pile. He goes full speed on every single play and that’s why he’s out there on the field right now, playing and making those plays. He’s just only going to get better. Give him a year on the varsity level, a year in the weight room and just sees what he grows into his junior and senior year.”

Orangeburg Prep at Northside Christian

After two straight road games to open the season, undefeated Northside Christian will finally play before a friendly audience.

“We have played three straight Friday nights away from Palmetto State Armory Field, and we are quite ready to not have to get on a bus to play some ball,” Northside Christian head coach Dean Howell said. “Our atmosphere at NCA is so wholesome and exciting…. exactly what I remember about Friday nights growing up. The place will be packed, and we hope to play well in front of our home crowd.”

The ‘Cardiac Crusaders” are off to a 2-0 start for the second straight year. Both victories have come on the road in close and dramatic fashion.

In Week 0, the Crusaders overcame adversity from riding two hours on a bus without air conditioning to losing players due to injury to defeat First Baptist 45-42.

Last week, Northside Christian needed overtime to defeat Greenwood Christian 18-17 in the Region 3-2A opener. Trailing 17-10 after the Hawks’ score, quarterback Jefferson McCallum found Gavin Ford for a 25-yard touchdown.

Howell opted to go for the win and Matt Diaz ran in the two-point conversion. While getting the usual production on offense from McCallum and Sam Burks, Howell highlighted the play of center and defensive back Zack Gebhardt as critical in the win.

“He blocked a field goal on the last play of the first half Friday night to keep us in a 3-point game and he was absolutely dominant on both offense and defense,” Howell said. “He couldn’t hardly stand after the game because he left everything he had in his tank on that field. He has definitely been our most consistent performer on both offense and defense this year.”

Northside Christian now looks to move a step closer to its first-ever region title with a win against an Indians’ team which brought back coaching legend Don Shelley. He won six SCISAA titles at Orangeburg Prep over 20 seasons before leaving to win championships at Holly Hill Academy and Williamsburg Academy.

“I don’t know Coach Shelley real well other than playing them last year at Williamsburg Academy,” Howell said. “Everyone I know speaks very highly of coach and I can’t say anything but great things about he and his teams. He is a proven winner, and you can watch them really starting to iron some kinks out and they should start hitting their stride soon.”

Howell acknowledged his team has made “strides” in learning the game during his three seasons at the helm. At the same time, he believes the Crusaders are “still a long way from where we’d like to be”.

“We are not quite there yet but we are getting closer,” Howell said. “We have got great kids and it’s sometimes really difficult to be hard on them, but man do we need it sometimes.

Today was one of those days as we watched film of some uninspired football Friday night at Greenwood Christian. I expect we will be much more motivated to play well Friday night.”

South Carolina Prep Football Media Poll
Class 3A
1. Dillon (14) (1-0)
2. Daniel (2) (2-0)
3. Clinton (2) (2-0)
4. Camden (2-0)
5 (tie) Chapman (4) (2-0)
5.(tie) Chester (2-0)
7. Belton Honea-Path (1-0)
8. Gilbert (1-0)
9. Broome (2-0)
10. Brookland-Cayce (2-0)

Others receiving votes: Beaufort, Manning, Seneca, Crestwood, Loris, Pendleton, Philip Simmons, Powdersville

Class 2A
1. Abbeville (17) (2-0)
2. Gray Collegiate (5) (2-0)
3. Fairfield Central (2-0)
4. Oceanside Collegiate (1-1)
5. Silver Bluff (2-0)
6. Marion (2-0)
7. Hampton County (2-0)
8. Saluda (2-0)
9. Strom Thurmond (1-1)
10. (tie) Woodland (1-0)
10. (tie) Andrew Jackson (1-1)
Others receiving votes: Ninety-Six, Landrum, Newberry, Barnwell

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