West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – Gray Collegiate Academy, a public charter school located off Leaphart Road near West Columbia and Lexington, lost to SC 2A Lower State Champions Bamberg-Ehrhardt to dash their hopes of winning state Friday night. Despite their loss, the War Eagles of Gray have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of about their 2018 season. They stacked up a pile of school firsts in their regular season victories and their appearance in the third round of the Class 2A playoffs this weekend was also historic in that they got to play at this point in the post season. In the end, the War Eagles lost to the Red Raiders 56-22, again nothing to hang their heads about given that Bamberg-Ehrhardt was the defending Lower State champs.
Mistakes cost Gray dearly with their Quarterback Hunter Helms throwing three interceptions that were gathered in by Raiders and all returned for touchdowns. The Eagles also had a blocked punt in the first half that was returned by Bamberg-Ehrhardt’s T.J. Inabinet. That let the Raiders capitalize again and put 21 points on the board before Gray’s offense ever had a chance to get on the field and get started. In the end, the War Eagles simply couldn’t recover. The loss snapped a 6-game winning streak for Gray and dashed their championship dreams.
The boys from Gray Collegiate didn’t quit, even when down,and finally put some points on the board with a short touchdown run thanks to K.Z. Adams. The Eagles faked the punt and Helms threw a pass to Kelvon Robinson in the end zone for the 2 point conversion. Bamberg-Erhardt scored again in the second quarter on a run play to make the score 28-8. Not to be outdone or defeated, Gray responded with a 54-yard pass caught by Jack Wood to bring the display on the board to 28-15. After that score by the War Eagles, Bamberg-Erhardt went on a tear, scoring 28 unanswered points to effectively finish off the War Eagles and close out the first half.
The second half started on a sour note. Soon after returning to the field from the locker-room, a 56 yard pass by the Red Raiders that ended with a scoring drive put more points on the ever-climbing board. Still fighting, with just 4:00 minutes and change left in the fourth quarter, Gray Collegiate’s QB Helms put one into the hands of Nakeem Smith for a touchdown to cap the game on a more positive note.
As stated at the beginning, the War Eagles have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in this season of firsts. They finished with a season that recorded a school-best 7-5 record. Their steady, capable play throughout the season got them to the playoffs and they were matched against a team that could easily make it to the 2-A State Finals. As the War Eagles age and progress, they have the opportunity to build a legacy for a school that’s not been long established and has no long record of athletic accomplishments. This is because they simply haven’t existed the decades needed to build a trophy case full of accolades.
More than anything, this well coached team has heart. They didn’t just quit when the chips were down Friday and that speaks volumes about their character. It doesn’t hurt that the raw talent is there and just budding, but without the heart to back it up, talent can only get you so far. Look for great things from this unique school built on the concept that every student there can succeed academically, and as it grows and builds their sports programs, athletically. We predict their greatest days are ahead of them.