Player Profile: Injured Lewis still helping anchor Northside’s fronts

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2017

COLUMBIA — Injuries have plagued Northside’s offensive and defensive lines early in the season. One of those players to get banged up was Gray Lewis, who broke his hand in the Panthers’ Week 2 loss at North Duplin.

Exhaustion and inexperience in the trenches was one of the reasons the Panthers went from trailing the Rebels by two to losing 28-12. North Duplin’s veteran offensive weapons pounded the young defensive front Northside fielded late in the game. Quarterback William Archer and running back Kenny Sheppard combined for 286 rushing yards as their team scored twice in the fourth quarter to run away with the game.

Lewis didn’t let his injury set him back. Hand cast and all, the Northside senior put his hand in the dirt and was a pivotal force in the 50-20 win at Columbia. Playing through the injury sends a message to the rest of the team, making Lewis a leader despite playing organized football for the first time since he was in eighth grade.

“There’s so many times you find kids who look to get off the field sometimes when it gets tough,” head coach Keith Boyd said. “When they look around and see him trying to get on the field when he could be one of those guys to get off the field, I’ve heard kids comment that, ‘Gray’s playing. He’s out there giving 100 percent.’ That kind of leadership helps us.”

Getting back into the swing of things has been challenging, but natural. Lewis is playing at a completely different level than he did in middle school. He faces a learning curve as far as terminology goes, but he’s getting it.

“He’s so far behind as far as the lingo and understanding the game, but the good thing about him is he’s smart and he’s picking it up quick,” Boyd said. “He’s just got to learn the pace of the game a little bit better. He was out there with eighth graders. Now he’s out there with 10th, 11th, 12th graders. The pace of the game is so much faster.”

Boyd said Lewis has made strides in every facet of the game: conditioning, aggressiveness, and overall comprehension of the action unfolding around him. For him, it boils down to his love for being on the field.

“I know the game of football. It’s not like I’ve never played before. I picked up the same position I used to play,” Lewis said. “It’s not like I forgot a lot. I just wish I played all four years.”

Lewis is enjoying his first and last year of varsity football. Instead of making up for lost time, he’s making an impact each time he steps on the field. He’s had fun getting back on the field with the likes of Dawson Jackson, who Lewis used to play with back in the day.

There are plenty of fun times ahead. The next one will be an anticipated home meeting with Beaufort County rival Washington.