The color of fall foliage in Shoreham and Wading River this year is gray.
Chris Gray, the Wildcats’ 5-7 bundle of energy and grit, scored all four touchdowns in a 27-14 victory over visiting Miller Place on Friday night that left both teams at 4-2 in Suffolk IV.
Gray scored on runs of 2, 3 and 22 yards and, despite his modest size, was an unstoppable force with 28 carries for 239 yards. But he made the play of the game as a defensive back.
With the score knotted at 14 early in the third quarter, Shoreham-Wading River linebacker Kevin Cutinella came hard on a blitz and forced Anthony Seymour to hurry his deep throw down the middle. Gray intercepted the pass on the run and returned it 65 yards for a game-breaking touchdown with 8:50 left.
“He just has great instincts on balls in the air,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Matt Millheiser said. “And once he gets the ball in space, he’s dangerous.”
It was Gray’s second pick-6 of the season, but for much of the night, he had to create his own space to run because Miller Place’s defense was stout. He put the game out of reach with a 22-yard scoring run with 6:11 left on which he broke one tackle to find open space down the right sideline.
“He was phenomenal tonight and he absolutely showed so much heart,” Millheiser said. “He was exhausted at the end, but he kept finding a little more and a little more.”
Gray, who also caught two passes for 34 yards, found the end zone from 2 yards out on the first drive of the game, which was highlighted by quarterback Cutinella’s tackle-breaking 62-yard run.
Miller Place also featured a hard-running back in 5-7, 160-pound Tyler Ammirato, who tied the score at 7 with a 9-yard run midway through the first quarter.
Gray’s 57-yard run on the final play of the first quarter set up his 3-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead. But the Panthers answered with a brilliant 95-play drive that featured a 27-yard run by Ammirato and ended with his 16-yard burst that tied it at 14. Ammirato finished with 117 yards on 19 carries.
The defenses dominated the third quarter, with Chris Sheehan leading the Wildcats. He and Ethan Wiederkehr had a sack apiece. Defensive lineman Jordan Nicholas was in the middle of things for Miller Place, which traded three-and-outs with Shoreham-Wading River in the second half until the complexion of the game turned on Gray’s interception.