By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
No matter who replaces Ken Gray, Shoemaker senior-to-be offensive/defensive lineman Savon Porell will still be an Eskimo.
"It means to be able to go out in any kind of weather, to play your heart out and do what you've got to do to win. No matter what happens, just keep your eye on the prize," Porell said.
Gray retired last Thursday after 11 years as Shoemaker's head football coach/campus athletic coordinator, a rumor that players started to hear as early as the previous Sunday.
The truth served as motivation Monday morning at the Grey Wolves' Pack Camp.
"Everybody was talking about coach Gray. Really, we're just going to find a way to be great next year," said junior-to-be running back Johnny Jefferson. "We're all going to compete for coach Gray because that's what he wanted."
Jefferson, quarterback Jammie Blunt and defensive tackle Jordan Salinas were all at a one-day camp at the University of Houston when Gray announced to the team on Thursday that he wouldn't be their head coach in the fall.
Porell was in that meeting.
"We all heard rumors about him not coming back next year and when he told us himself ... people were crying," Porell said. "Without coach Gray, he's like a father and we were just hurt. That's been our coach ... and he did so much for us."
Gray, who had a 29-81 record at Shoemaker, was Blunt's quarterback coach.
"It really hasn't set in. It kind of seems unreal," Blunt said. "He's been there since I was in middle school and my senior year. My head coach is going to be gone.
"I just have to take what he taught me and put it into effect. ... We've just got to keep playing, try to get a win."
The Grey Wolves have lost 22 straight games dating back to 2008, which was also the only season Shoemaker made the playoffs.
"We're going to go out and win. It's going to be a great season because we're doing for it for coach Gray to let him know he was a great coach," Jefferson said. "We lost last year because we didn't play together, but this year we're going to play together for him."
As if hearing about and playing through the losing streak were bad enough, now the Shoemaker football team has to deal with critical remarks about the Grey Wolves' former head coach, giving the team all the more reason to work harder for success this season.
"(This season) means a lot more now since we've got to prove to a lot more people that it wasn't coach Gray's fault," Salinas said. "Even though we have all these disadvantages, we're just going to compete for a better record."
Porell said that even though the Grey Wolves went 0-3 in its pool-play games on Saturday at the Belton 7-on-7 state qualifying tournament, they played like Eskimos.
"We played our hearts out for coach Gray," Porell said. "We wanted to show that we can still do it and win."
Contact Kevin Posival at email@example.com or (254) 501-7562.