Gray provides boost for Bobcats

ELLISVILLE – The Jones County Junior College Bobcats needed someone to step up in the final minutes last week against the East Central Community College Warriors.

JCJC led 42-35 with less than three minutes to play, but the Warriors had the ball on the Jones' 6-yard line with a first and goal.

But, Bobcat cornerback Mark Gray came through with that big play. He intercepted a Warrior pass at the 3-yard line, which pretty much preserved JCJC's South Division victory and left the Bobcats unbeaten at 4-0 on the year.

East Central quarterback Emmanuel Taylor tried to hit Kendrick May with a high, lob pass on the play. But, Gray was up to the task.

"He tried to get inside of me and I forced my way back underneath him," said Gray of May. "Like Coach says, ‘Find the ball at its highest point.' I did what I had to do and everything worked out."

It is not the first time Gray has come through in the clutch.

Last year, the Bobcats trailed the Southwest Bears 19-18 with just over two minutes to play and the Bears had the ball. Gray stepped in front of a third down pass by the Bears and returned the interception 32 yards for the game-winning score in a 25-19 Bobcat victory.

"Last year against Southwest, I intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown," said Gray. "That was a big play."

Gray is a 6-foot, 167-pound sophomore cornerback from Wayne County High School. He made the transition from Wayne County and was able to play some as a freshman. But, he said it is a better situation this season.

"It's going real good so far," he said. "It's a lot more different this year. It's a lot easier and I'm getting more playing time. But, it was fun playing at Wayne County. We had a lot of good athletes and a good coaching staff.

"But, I like it here at Jones. My whole family comes to all of the home games."

Gray enjoys the challenge of playing cornerback. He said it can be tough at times, but he credits defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Steve Boyd with making him a better player.

"You have to do a lot out there," he said of the cornerback position. "You are out there by yourself and any mistakes you make can lead to a big play for the other team. But, I think I have improved a whole lot since high school.

"Coach Boyd is a very good coach. He gets on to you when you do bad, but he knows what he is talking about."

This week, the Bobcats must continue to play well, as they travel to face Hinds Community College at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday. JCJC leads the South Division with a 2-0 mark, but they realize they cannot let up against Hinds, 2-2 overall and 1-1 in league play.

"Hinds looks like an all right football team," said Gray. "But, everybody seems to want to play well against Jones."

The Bobcats, who are ranked No. 4 in the latest NJCAA/ poll, finished No. 5 in the nation and second in the state last year. Gray believes they have the ability to achieve a title in 2008.

"We are looking for a championship," he said. "We've got good players on the team and good coaches. Hopefully, we can win it all." After the season concludes, Gray will concentrate on his future plans. He plans to graduate in December and enroll at a senior college for the spring semester.

Right now, West Texas A&M is in the lead for Gray's services. Two former Bobcats – Eugene Sims and Ira Lee Keys – are playing football there this fall.

"It's been going real good," Gray said of his schoolwork. "I will be through with welding and graduate in December.

"I have not been to visit West Texas A&M, but I plan on going out there if everything goes my way."

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