Gray runs wild in win over Wheaton Academy
IC Catholic Prep junior running back Malik Gray exited the field for the final time with little fanfare on Friday night.
Nursing a slight injury for part of Friday's key Metro Suburban Blue game against Wheaton Academy, Gray limped off the field following a long, exhausting workhorse performance.
Gray carried the ball 29 times to rush for a career-best 187 yards and scored two touchdowns to lift the Knights to a 29-16 win over the Warriors in West Chicago.
On a warm, summerlike evening, Gray was the headline performer in a showdown between the top two teams in the conference.
Gray kept his emotions intact throughout the intense game, even showing little happiness in the postgame other than a slight smirk when hearing his total yardage.
"It was a team effort, from the offensive line to the defense," Gray said. "It was all my teammates and the coaches. It was all a team effort. It's not about me. My team and coaches are all together. We're a family."
A team-first player, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Gray gutted through a tough night by carrying the load for the Knights (6-0, 4-0). After all-state running back Kyle Franklin graduated following a record-breaking four-year career, Gray showed he's ready to take the mantle of starting running back.
"Kyle was a really good football player and was a role model for me," Gray said. "I learned from him to always go hard and never stop."
On the first place from scrimmage -- after an 89-yard kickoff return by Kareem Parker -- Gray scored on a seven-yard TD run. He added a highlight-reel 43-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter, bursting off the edge and running along the sidelines for his second TD.
"I just saw green grass on that long (TD)," Gray said. "My teammates were in front of me blocking. They did a great job blocking for me on that play. We're a very good team, but we still have more room to grow. It was a team effort."
Senior wide receiver/defensive end Antonio Richardson led the Knights' defensive effort with a pair of third-quarter sacks. The Warriors (4-2, 3-1) managed just 83 yards rushing and finished with 155 yards passing, with the Knights tallying three sacks, a safety and an interception.
"I just want to give credit to my interior linemen," Richardson said. "They really stepped up and made (Wheaton Academy) work all night. It helped me out really good when we have our linebackers playing well.
"We showed flashes of what we can be. When Malik's going, he's a really good back. Our offensive line has to create holes for me. It all starts in practice."
The Knights put the game out of reach when quarterback Dennis Mandala tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Denzel Gibson with 7:11 left in the fourth quarter. The defense added a safety with 1:14 left in the nearly three-hour game.
Wheaton Academy senior running back Andrew Apostoli finished with 70 yards rushing, including a two-yard TD. Senior wide receiver Edward Kasper hauled in seven passes for 67 yards from two quarterbacks, highlighted by a 21-yard TD grab in the back of the end zone off a beautiful pass from Belay Brummel early in the fourth.