Gray Collegiate’s out-of-state schedule paves way for playoff success

Posted 11/9/23

The Gray Collegiate football team ran onto the field before Friday’s victory over Pelion ready to play its first game in front of its home crowd in over a month.

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Gray Collegiate’s out-of-state schedule paves way for playoff success


The Gray Collegiate football team ran onto the field before Friday’s victory over Pelion ready to play its first game in front of its home crowd in over a month.

The War Eagles entered their first-round playoff match having played only two games in October. Both were on the road, and both were out of state.

The playoffs came as a relief for Gray. The team won’t be forced to travel as far and will have some familiarity with their opponents throughout the tournament. The War Eagles will enjoy their home-field advantage as long as it lasts and look to continue a multi-year unbeaten streak.

“It feels great being on this field, and being in front of our home crowd,” head coach Adam Holmes said. “We haven’t lost in five years on our home field, and we haven’t lost this year on this home field. So that’s our plan to keep moving forward. Keep defending our home turf.”

Due to the ongoing debate over competitive fairness in South Carolina high school athletics, Gray was forced to find replacement games after the team’s regional opponents forfeited their games against the school.

The War Eagles found four new opponents to play in place of their six scheduled region games.

The team traveled to Washington D.C. to play St. Johns on Sept. 16, losing 42-28. Two weeks later, Gray played its last home game of the regular season against Georgia’s Portal High School, winning 56-35.

Gray played its last two games in Florida against Clearwater Academy International and IMG Academy.

The War Eagles dropped a close game in Clearwater, losing by a touchdown, 34-27. IMG dominated Gray, winning 53-7 after jumping out to a 28-0 first-quarter lead.

Despite going 1-3 with multiple lopsided losses, Holmes said the level of competition his team played against over that stretch made them more prepared for a potentially deep playoff run.

“It’s a huge difference,” Holmes said. “Anybody we play now, we hope things kind of slow down for them when you come out here from the level of competition we’ve played.”

It looked like the game slowed down for Gray on Friday as the War Eagles cruised to a 62-0 shutout over Pelion to advance to the second round of the SCHSL 2A playoffs.

Gray linebacker Michael Boulware said he could tell from Friday’s results that the team’s replacement games got them ready for the moment.

“It helped us a lot because we got to see a lot of teams that were way faster than these teams,” Boulware said. “This game was a lot slower than those other ones.”

Still, Gray didn’t play a perfect game against Pelion, and there are some things the team has to work on that allowed the Panthers some success, Boulware said.

“We need to make sure we don’t have as many penalties and we need to make sure we don’t give them as many yards,” Boulware said.

The competition will increase as more teams are eliminated. There is even the potential for Gray to play one of its regional foes who forfeited their regular season matchup.

Four teams from the 2A Region Four conference remain after round one, including Gray. Newberry, Fairfield Central and Keenan are the other three.

If both Gray and Keenan win their second-round games, the two would meet for a winner-take-all game to advance to the semifinal.

Even outside of their region, the War Eagles could be matched up with talented teams. Hampton County (10-1), Marion (10-1), Strom Thurmond (9-2), Oceanside Collegiate (8-2) and defending champions Abbeville (10-1) all remain in the tournament.

“We will see some good teams coming through here,” Holmes said. “We know it’s going to be a tough road. So, our guys will be ready.”

Gray is seeking the program’s second state title after winning their first under Holmes in 2021. The team will look to avoid getting eliminated in the second round for the second year in a row with a win over Chesnee.

Chesnee enters the matchup 6-5 on the season. The Eagles finished in fourth place in the 2A Region One standings and defeated Batesburg-Leesville 21-10 in round one of the playoffs.

For Gray, this game is the next standing in their shot at redemption and ultimate goal. Reclaiming the state title would successfully conclude the team’s season-long quest.

“I think it’d mean everything,” Holmes said. “Our whole motto all year has been ROT, regain our title. That’s what we’ve been working for, and that’s our goal.”


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