Don Bosco Prep ended their season as the champs. In addition, Prep ended the season ranked number 2 in the country by USA Today. And, if that's not bad enough, Bosco had already handed Bergen Catholic a devastating loss, thumping Bergen, 49-8. You didn't need to hype this game up for James Dray and his teammates when they knew that they were going to be playing Prep in the finals.
Despite the convincing defeat earlier in the season, Dray wasn't convinced that the Jersey powerhouse was unbeatable. "We knew going in that we could win." Dray said. "You don't go into any game not to lose. You go to win and that's what we were going to do."
And, to that end, they almost succeeded, Prep barely edging Berge, 14-13. It's that kind of a loss, that finite margin of victory that actually sits and seethes worse than had it been like their first meeting of the year. Dray wants payback. "They aren't unbeatable and this year, we are coming out to prove that."
Dray and his teammates won't have to wait long for the first shot at DB, Bergen scheduled to play them in the second week of the season.
With each passing year, all teams lose talent and the same can be said for Don Bosco Prep. They lost All-Everything, Brian Toal, but as you can imagine, teams like this don't rebuild, they reload. Bergen, not a shabby team themselves, actually having begun last year ranked in the USA Today Top 25, they have a host of serious players returning as well.
Dray will be counted amongst those, the TE/LB a major cog on both sides of the ball for Catholic. From the offensive side of the ball, Dray caught 30 receptions for 456 yards, scoring 4 touchdowns. And, on defense, over the last two seasons, Dray has amassed 181 tackles, 20 for loss, 22 sacks, and 6 ints.
That kind of versatility has lent to the double-digit deluge of offers, James being offered at either the tight end or linebacker position. Dray does however have a preference. "I'd play either side of the ball" he said "But, if I have to choose, I'd say tight end."
Hard to argue that with the success James had last year, averaging over 15 yards a catch. It's also a position that the 6'5" 230 lbs. (4.6/40) standout finds his strengths particularly helpful. "I can stretch the defense and I've got good hands, so it gives me a lot of chances to make plays."
While James couldn't recall which schools have offered him for which position, his preference as to what side of the ball he would rather play will obviously have an impact on his ultimate choice. As to those choices, they will be many, Teams like Boston College, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Nebraska and Stanford have already ponied up.
In respect to what he wants, Dray said that there's just a couple of basic things he'll be looking at as to what he thinks a school should be about. "It's got to be a great place for an education." Dray stated. "Plus, it's got to be a good tradition or at least be a pretty reputable place. They don't have to be national champs or anything, but it's got to be a place that really cares about winning."
Dray will have plenty of time as he said that he's going to opt to take his time or as long as he needs to take in trying to come to just the right decision. "Last thing I want to do is make a decision that I look back on later and wonder about." he said. "I'm going to take however long I have to take and make sure that whatever school that is, that's the place I want to be."
In addition to the list of just a few of his offers at this time, you can throw teams like Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan State, Virginia as teams Dray is looking at right now. Don't get comfy with the list though, because as James himself stated, this process could go on a long time. "Ideally, it would be nice to get this out of the way soon." he said. "But, I plan on waiting as long as I need to, to make the right choice, so other schools that aren't there might end up being there. I don't know right now. I am just taking it as it comes."
Dray carries a 3.6 GPA and scored 1070 on his first crack at the SAT. Dray did say that he wanted to retake the test in June.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619