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Gray’s 5 TDs direct Hazlehurst

HAZLEHURST – Gabriel Gray was running on all cylinders Fridaynight. The Hazlehurst quarterback exploded for five touchdowns asthe Indians went on the warpath and whipped Franklin County’sBulldogs 32-17 in a Region 7-3A showdown.

Gray’s exploits have earned him The DAILY LEADER’s Offensive Playerof the Week recognition. He is a speedy 6-foot-1, 189-poundsenior.

Hazlehurst head coach Todd McDaniel said a series of nagginginjuries had slowed Gray’s production this season. “Gabriel hasbeen hampered by injuries. He hasn’t been working on all cylinderssince the first game.”

A healthy Gray equals a happy bunch of teammates and coaches.McDaniel said, “He was healthy against Franklin County. He’s 100percent.”

Asked about his foot speed, McDaniel said, “Gabe is as fast andelusive as he needs to be. He’s smart and he knows the game. Hecame to me and asked if he could run a specific play.”

A standout in four sports, Gray uses his athletic gifts to the bestof his ability. Besides the 5-touchdown outburst, he interceptedtwo passes on defense.

“I just had winning on my mind,” said Gray.

Offensively, Gray lugged the leather nine times for 133 yards. Hequickly scored on runs of 21, 24 and 10 yards. He raced 81 yardsearly in the third quarter and plunged one yard for afourth-quarter TD. Overall, he had 242 all-purpose yards.

A big plus for the Indians is their young offensive line thatappears to improve with each game. The Indians are 5-2 overall and1-1 in the region race as they rebounded from a close 26-24 lossthe previous week to defending 3A state champion Tylertown.

Hazlehurst’s offensive line features left tackle Terry Baker, leftguard Ken Curtis, center Kyle Dominique, right guard DariusWashington, and right tackle Torion Samuels, and tight end JayBanks.

“Our offensive line is doing a good job,” said McDaniel

Gray echoed the sentiments of his coach. “They showed up and gaveme some good holes and blocks. I told them to give me a lane and Iwould come through for them.”

He is the son of Gabriel Gray Sr., and Felecia Henley. He has ayounger, brother, Dedric, age 14, who is a freshman basketballplayer at Hazlehurst.

Gray said McDaniel timed his speed in 40-yard dash last summer andhe ran a blazing 4.36. In track, Gray said his best 100-meter dashtime was 10.5 “when I was out of shape. I used to be so bow-legged.Now I’m pigeon-toed.”

In the weight room, Gray can bench press 235 pounds. He squats with405 pounds.

Speed has become an annual asset for Hazlehurst football teams.Gray said,

“We are a fast team and we have a good defense. They’ll knock youdown.”

He said he enjoys playing for McDaniel. “He makes practice fun. Hemakes you learn to do the right thing in every situation.”

Asked about Hazlehurst’s chances in the Class 3A state playoffsnext month, Gray said, “We have a big chance of going all the wayif we stay focused.”

The Indians captured a state championship in 2005, under formerhead coach Willie Brown. They have become regulars in the stateplayoff picture.

Gray has made a verbal commitment to sign a baseball scholarshipwith Copiah-Lincoln Community College. He likes following theMississippi State Bulldogs and has long-range plans to have acareer in engineering.

In his spare time, Gray said he enjoys hanging out with friends andgoing out to eat pizza.

The Indians host Wilkinson County for homecoming Friday night.