Throughout the 2011 Texas high school football season, eyes have been focused on Aledo (Texas) High running back Johnathan Gray, whose assault on the state's and nation's cherished record books has been relentless. Now, it appears that a penalty for a touchdown celebration could seriously hurt the nation's top-ranked running back prospect's chances of catching two major records, one national and one for the state of Texas.
As reported by the Dallas Morning News, Gray was ejected in the third quarter of Aledo's 33-0 Class 4A-II regional final victory against Stephenville (Texas) High after picking up a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That flag came as Gray high-stepped his way into the end zone at the end of a breakaway run in the third quarter. According to television commentary of the incident, it was the second time in the game that Gray had been handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a touchdown celebration.
You can see video of the run that drew the penalty flag below and, admittedly, the celebratory high-stepping appears to be pretty innocuous, at best.
Instead of adding a touchdown to Gray's season-long tally of 59 (including one earlier in the game against Stephenville), he was sent to the showers early, with Aledo teammate Caleb Frysinger crossing the goal line three plays later to ice the school's victory.
All that lost time limited Gray's game totals to something more human than most are accustomed to seeing him produce. Because his second touchdown was wiped out, the senior Texas commitment finished with only one touchdown and 195 yards on the ground.
Make no mistake: 195 yards and a touchdown in a state quarterfinal marks an impressive performance, particularly when they only come over a little more than three periods. Yet those stats were still so diminished from the speedy back's usual output that they may push former Sugar Land (Texas) High legend Ken Hall's national career scholastic rushing record of 11,232 yards beyond Gray's grasp; the senior currently has 3,432 yards in his final senior campaign, pushing his career total to 10,435.
Additionally, the single touchdown leaves him lurking far beyond fellow senior running back Joseph Sadler of Devine (Texas) High, who added another 12 points to his season-long, state-record total in Devine's 38-12 quarterfinal loss to Wimberly (Texas) High. Those 12 points and season-ending Devine loss ensure that, for the moment, the Texas state single-season points record is 453.
Of course, whether or not those two prestigious marks really are beyond Gray's reach is dependent entirely on the back's own accomplishments on the ground for the remainder of the season. Given what he has been able to produce throughout the year -- he entered the regional finals with 3,236 yards as a senior -- all while teams prepared for him and stacked the box against him on defense, it's impossible to rule those feats out, particularly after his coach assured reporters that Gray would play in the state semifinals despite the ejection.
Still, if Gray finishes at No. 2 on the career rushing list and the state single-season scoring list by a marginal amount, critics are sure to bring up the questionable ejection he received in one of his final scholastic games, whether he deserved it or not.
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