Photo by Todd Kwarcinski.
Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey said William Gray, 10, cares as much as anyone he’s ever coached.
After a resounding 23-14 win at then-No. 4 Mortimer Jordan on Sept. 23, Briarwood Christian head coach Fred Yancey was asked about his senior quarterback, William Gray.
Yancey responded in typical coach-speak, praising Gray’s ball protection, tight spirals and tough runs. But then he took it a little bit further.
“He cares probably as much or more than anybody I’ve ever coached,” Yancey said. “He cares a lot. He would do anything to get the W. If he ever makes a mistake, he doesn’t stay down over it. He bounces back fast and regroups.”
Through Briarwood’s first five games of the 2016 season, Gray had completed 32 of 51 passes for 528 yards and eight touchdowns against just three interceptions. That equates to 16.5 yards per completion. He had also rushed for 182 yards and three scores.
He passed for 189 yards and two touchdowns in the win at Mortimer Jordan, a statement victory for the Lions.
“I think it proves that we’re legit, and it’s just not easy stuff that we’re winning,” Gray said, who also rushed for 63 yards in the win. “I think it sends a statement to the rest of the state that we’re coming, and we’re real.”
Gray plays with a fearlessness on the field that at times seems unmatched. He inspires his teammates through his actions and work ethic.
“He’s always an encourager,” said Briarwood wide receiver Luke Miskelley. “He’s a leader. He’s always pushing me to get better in practice. He’s a great leader. That’s what makes him be able to do this type of stuff out here.”
Gray isn’t the biggest quarterback around, but he’s certainly not the smallest. Through five games, he was averaging just 2.6 yards per carry, but he seems to save his most bruising runs for the most crucial moments.
“I’m thinking that no one guy can tackle me,” Gray said. “I’m running angry, and I’m running to gain good yards for the team. I know that I’m the bulldozer back. I love that role, so whenever I get to run the ball, I try to get the tough yards.”
Against an overmatched Moody team on Sept. 2, he completed all five of his passes for 190 yards and four touchdowns — in the first half alone. Against a stout Wenonah team a week later, he led a second-half comeback to win, 15-14.
“A lot of good moments,” Gray said.
It was mentioned to Gray that it seemed as if most of his favorite memories of high school football came through the first half of the 2016 season. Gray grinned.
“Winning helps,” he said.
Gray said all of the Lions’ goals are in front of them. They want to be Class 5A, Region 5 champions. They want to continue the tradition of making the playoffs, which Briarwood has accomplished every season since 1993. The Lions also hope to hoist a state championship trophy in early December.
“That’s got to be the goal for every team,” Gray said.
Yancey said Gray is one of the hardest-working players he’s ever coached. When you mix talent with a strong work ethic, the results are incredible.
“He’s a real leader of this team,” Yancey said.
Gray will continue to lead this team. Whether it is sometime in the Class 5A playoffs or with a trophy on the Jordan-Hare Stadium turf in Auburn, his high school career will soon come to an end.
“I want to be remembered as a nice guy that always encouraged the younger guys and really left a mark, and left a positive attitude and positive atmosphere at Briarwood, an atmosphere of working hard,” he said.