Holy Family’s Liam Gray, an energy drink personified one moment — screeching past defenders, capping one bonkers scoring play after another — sheds down to a hush the next.
The Tigers’ electric jolt on offense has tallied eight touchdowns in six games, and after each of them, he — the state’s most productive kicker — slows down his heartbeat and calmly knocks through the point-after try.
“It’s an opposite world,” said Gray, who is among the most fascinating prospects as the COVID-19 high school football playoffs begin Thursday. “It’s rage mentality for receiver, and slow and controlled for kicking. I just take a few breaths, close my eyes for a few seconds and switch my mentality.”
Ahead of 3A undefeated and No. 2 seeded Holy Family’s first round game against No. 7 Evergreen Friday, Gray comes in as the state’s top kicker in points (44) and is tied for fifth in overall scoring (94).
From his prized right leg this fall, the senior has converted on five of his six field goals, with a long of 42 yards, and has gone perfect on 29 PATs.
On offense, he’s added a pop to a unit that has proven balanced with 223 rushing yards per game and 160 passing. In six games, he averaged 25.1 yards on 16 catches, tops in the BoCoPreps.com area among players with a minimum of 10 catches. And of his eight TDs, with at least one in every game, he has a 36-yard rushing score and a 92-yard receiving TD.
“He’s a lot to handle for any defensive back,” Holy Family coach Mike Gabriel said. “He’s 6-(foot-)2, I think, and 210 pounds. He runs and jumps and does everything we need him to do as a receiver. We can do a lot of things with him.”
College coaches interested in Gray tend to agree.
“Kicking is most likely what I’ll do in college,” Gray said. “But all the coaches I’ve talked to have seen my receiver film as well. They all talk about running fakes with me. It’s fun.”
Now the postseason, where kickers’ legacies are bred.
With teams getting just six regular season games to build a playoff resumé — many with even less due to cancellations from COVID-19 — the kicking game has already played a crucial role in making and missing the cut. The margin, often the difference of made and missed PATs. And some by a single kick — like that of Broomfield’s Matthew Eich, who helped the Eagles wrap up a postseason bid with a 27-yard overtime winner over Windsor earlier in the month.
At Holy Family, meanwhile, with each of its six wins decided by at least four scores, the kicking game served more as a padding. Gray’s 44 points by foot alone rival the 60 the Tigers allowed all season.
Far more crucial kicks, of course, may lie just ahead.
“I think the kicking game is huge once you get to the playoffs,” Gabriel said. “We’ve had years where we’ve been blessed to have kickers and we’ve had years we haven’t. A game can be won or lost by one point and Liam is very capable of the extra points. I’m also comfortable getting to the 40-yard line and taking a shot at it. Kudos to Liam for his leg strength. It’s a huge weapon for us.”