With five football forfeits confirmed, Gray Collegiate is adding new games to schedule

Adam Holmes’ demeanor changed in a week’s time.

The Gray Collegiate football coach was calmer and more relaxed as he took questions from reporters following the War Eagles’ 30-12 win over Camden on Friday night. Gray is 4-0 on the season and likely will be ranked No. 1 in Class 2A when the new statewide polls are released Monday.

A week earlier, Holmes gave a passionate defense of his program that’s been under a spotlight this season as Region 4-2A teams said they’re not willing to play the War Eagles in football and other sports. Video of his Sept. 2 response had 127,000 views on X, the social media platform formally known as Twitter.

But a lot has changed for the program in a week. Instead of possibly not playing for six weeks and being off until the playoffs, Holmes and the Gray administration have been busy trying to fill the dates left open by region opponents that have confirmed they will forfeit football games: Eau Claire, Columbia, Keenan, Fairfield Central, Newberry and Mid-Carolina high schools.

Newberry is the lone school yet to make its intentions known, according to Gray leaders. The Bulldogs are only in the region for football.

Last month, the S.C. High School League executive committee voted 10-2 in favor of allowing any team facing a region-game forfeiture in any sport to replace it with another opponent — if one could be found — and without penalty.

The schools view the forfeits against Gray as their way of taking a stand on fair play and competitive balance concerns regarding charter and private schools that are SCHSL members and have dominated the 1A and 2A state championships in recent years.

New Gray schedule

The first one of Gray’s replacement games will be next week. Instead of traveling to Eau Claire as scheduled, the War Eagles will head to Washington, D.C., and face St. John’s College High School. The Cadets are part of the Washington Catholic League and play a tough out-of-state schedule in addition to their league games.

St. John’s has been around since 1861. Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is a graduate and big supporter of the school. Plank gave the school a $16 million gift in 2015, according to the Washington Post.

St. John’s roster includes Oregon running back commit Da’Juan Riggs, Cincinnati commit Montay Weedon and junior four-star prospect Tariq Hayer.

The War Eagles plan to take advantage of the trip and make it educational with stops at various D.C. landmarks.

“We will talk next week about who we are playing, but it is a challenging football game and a challenging football team,” Holmes said. “It is going to be a great trip for our guys. We’ve got a lot of things planned for them.

“We are just taking our next step. We had four really good football games (so far on the schedule) and now we will probably play the best team out of all of them. Our guys will be tested, playing a team on a national level. We are excited about it.”

Gray also has lined up games with teams from Georgia and Florida. Gray will host Portal High (Georgia) on Sept. 29, a game that will act as the school’s homecoming. The War Eagles will travel to the Clearwater, Florida area for a game in October.

Gray plans parents meeting

More details of the opponents and schedule for will be announced at the school Tuesday during a meeting with Gray Collegiate parents. Notice of the meeting was sent out this week in a letter to parents and a reminder was announced again during Friday’s game.

“Several traditional public schools within Region 4 have indicated that their schools will not participate in any interscholastic athletic contests with GCA during the 2023-2024 school year. It’s my understanding that these decisions were reached based on a perceived lack of competitive balance in some prior athletic contests involving some GCA teams,” Gray principal Brian Newsome said in the email. “We are very aware that the decisions of several schools are of concern for many of our families here at GCA. We have taken numerous steps to ensure that your student-athlete is able to compete at a high level and in numerous athletic contests during the 2023-2024 school year and moving forward.”

Holmes described the meeting as “informational” and meant to let everyone know about the direction for the school’s athletic programs.

“We just want to let our fans know what our route is,” he said. “We are going to move forward as an athletic program to make sure that our kids are successful and go out and do great things.”

Gray contends that the region schools not playing them violates a state budget proviso that was written into state law and “guarantees that private or charter schools are afforded the same rights and privileges that are enjoyed by all other members of the association.”

Gray has no intentions of leaving the S.C. High School League, which it has been a member of since the school opened in 2014. Newsome has formed a committee with other administrators from around the state to address the issue of competitive balance.