OLEAN — Terry Gray has learned a few things through his 30 years of high school football coaching. One of them is simplifying his game plan for the All-Star Contest.
“If we beat the huddle and all five linemen turn around and look at the quarterbacks, we’re going to be in trouble,” said Gray, a retired Freysburg coach who will lead the New York team in the 49th renewal of the Big 30 All-Star Charity Classic.
New York State began nine practices Monday night at Olean Intermediate Middle School in preparation for a game against Pennsylvania at Parkway Field in Bradford on August 5 at 7 p.m.
Gray is no stranger to these situations, leading the New York team to victories in 2012 and 2014. Early in his head coaching career, he also coached the Lions Club All-Star Classic in Buffalo.
His philosophy is: “Try to put the kids in the right position. Be careful not to overcomplicate things.”
“You can win the All-Star Game if the athletes play fast,” Gray added. “They’re All-Star athletes and they’re here for a purpose. They used to say don’t take the players out by making them think too much. We want to do some things well. They’ll know what to do.”
Gray oversees a 33-man roster alongside defensive assistants Brendan Carter and Rob Colber, line coach Adam Loftus and offensive assistant Trent Gray. They will study the strengths and weaknesses of their players over the next few days and decide how to attack their opponents.
“I don’t know anything about it yet,” he said. “I’ve got some ideas.”
Gray said there were concerns about a shortage of players in the offensive and defensive centers, as five players did not participate in opening practice.
“Suddenly you say, ‘This guy and this guy have this much,'” says Gray. “We’re getting there.”
Playing numbers is nothing new for Gray. He has led the Flusberg program for 23 years, but has struggled to fill his roster in recent years and retired this spring. The Bears are expected to return to eight-a-side football, with Rob Colber taking over the Bears in 2023.
“Tired,” Gray admitted. “I want to take a break. We’ve been struggling. We played 8 and then merged.
However, he said Gray would be happy to tutor his “swan song” for one more game. After Monday’s practice, he happily chatted with his fellow players and coaches as the rain fell on the practice field.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time,” Gray said. “I truly believe that to be in the All-Star Game, I have to use everything I have learned so far.
Last year, Pennsylvania won 27-13 and went 23-22-3, so if New York won, the series would be tied.