Some athletes try to stay away from the pressure, and some thrive in it. But when you’re a quarterback, you might as well embrace it because it’s going to be there whether you like it or not.
Calhoun junior quarterback Gavin Gray is well aware that he is in a position that gets a lot of the praise when things are going well and a lot of the blame when things go wrong. So far this season, other than the team’s lone loss against Cartersville, Gray and his teammates have received a lot of positive feedback after wins, and if it’s okay with the signal-caller, he would like for that to last about two more weeks.
Gray has had a huge season on the field for Calhoun (12-1) as the player who directs the high-powered Jackets’ offense. Through 13 games, he has thrown for 3,060 yards on 204-of-314 passing with 30 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said Gray is the ideal quarterback for his team, which has arrived in the Final Four and will visit defending state champion Cedar Grove on Friday at 7:30 p.m., and does everything in his power to try and help the team succeed.
“Gavin is what you want in a quarterback,” said Lamb. “He might not be the biggest or fastest or have the strongest arm, but he is very poised and very accurate with his throws. He knows when to run, and he knows when to get down to avoid big hits. He really knows our offense and is having an incredible season.”
Gray said being a quarterback, especially for a program with as much success as Calhoun has had, is definitely a challenge, but one that he fully accepts and enjoys.
“I do like it,” said Gray. “When things go bad, I try to take the blame for my teammates because it all runs through me and what I do with the ball. And when things go great, I love sharing it with my teammates. The pressure of being a quarterback has its good things and bad things, but the good definitely outweighs the bad.”
Gray got a little bit of a head start under center last season as he shared reps with former Calhoun High standout and current Clemson freshman Baylon Spector. Gray saw more and more action as the season went on while Spector was used more as a dual-threat weapon more in the rushing attack while Gray made most of the throws. He said that experience as a sophomore gave him a pretty good leg up on knowing what to expect as he took over the full-time role at the start of this season.
“It’s a big jump from JV to Varsity, and when I started taking reps early last season it was an eye-opener,” said Gray. “Taking reps in those varsity games showed me what it was like in front of a big crowd under the lights. And Baylon helped me a lot too. I can’t say enough about how much he helped me. The more varsity snaps I took, it helped me get comfortable in the role and showed me what I needed to do to get better going into this season.”
Gray has many weapons in the Jackets’ offensive arsenal, including an incredibly deep wide receiver group and some talented running backs to take some pressure off him in the passing game, and he said he knows how important the big guys are up front on the offensive line who allow him to have time to make decisions on the field. Just last week in the Jackets’ 31-7 victory over Liberty County in the Elite Eight, Gray connected with 10 different receivers while throwing for 297 yards and three touchdowns.
“I definitely have a lot of trust in all our guys on offense,” said Gray. “I know that I can look for the first read, but if I’m in trouble, I can check the ball down and we can still make big plays. Our coaches do a great job with the scheme to give me options of what I can do in the play. I know that I have receivers and running backs that don’t have to catch the ball down the field to make big plays. I can throw it to them on screens or check-downs, and they can do some amazing things after the catch.”
The next challenge in front of Gray and the Jackets is a tall one as they visit undefeated, No. 1-ranked and defending state champion Cedar Grove on Friday. The Saints were also the team that sent Calhoun into the offseason last year with an Elite-Eight loss at The Reeve. Gray, who threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s meeting vs. Cedar Grove, said he and his teammates are looking forward to the matchup and hopefully repaying the favor.
“Last year, they came in here and definitely smacked us around a bit,” said Gray. “But all the guys that are back from last year that played in that game have a chip on their shoulder. We want to go into their house and do the same thing they did to us.”