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Gray’s gutsy strikes complete Carroll’s shore conquest

WILDWOOD, N.J. >> The margin of error for Archbishop Carroll in overtime was as small as the end zone windows Kamal Gray threw into on the game’s final two plays.

Gray picked out Dahmir Ruffin in the front-right corner on fourth down of the second overtime and then found Carlon Brown in the left corner on a two-point conversion to defeat Conwell-Egan 39-38 at Wildwood High School Friday afternoon.

“I’ve been working real hard to get better,” Gray said. “Those throws aren’t luck. Those are planned plays right there. We told them what routes to run and I had to put it in that little window.”

“We just had a mindset of, ‘We can take this W right now,’” Ruffin said. “Coach (Dan Connor) had that confidence and belief in us and we believed in the system. We just went out and got the W.”

The decision to go for two at end the game was a no-brainer for Connor.

“We got the guys in the huddle and said this is going to be the first team to tap out,” Connor said. “We saw their defense was a little tired and we could take the game right now or play it safe. It hasn’t been my M.O. to play it safe in general. I’m going to take the risks and try to win the game. No game is going to be handed to you and that was pretty much the analogy of that last play. You have to take a win if you want it.”

The ensuing Carroll celebration almost didn’t happen, as Ruffin was stripped with two minutes to go in regulation. Instead of letting Egan close out the game, however, the Patriots forced a three-and-out and marched down the field to tie the game with 21.2 seconds left on the scoreboard.

“We just had to look at the mistakes, say that we made it and finish the game out,” Ruffin said.

The fight shown by Carroll is something Connor’s been waiting to get out of the team since he took over, and it showed a glimpse of what the team can be moving forward.

“When I first got here in January 2016, we were focusing on finishing and discipline and attention to detail and the little things,” Connor said. “We focused on that for two years and it never pays off quick, but now we’re starting to turn in our direction.”

The combination of Gray and Ruffin helped Carroll stay in the game from the start as the pair of skill position players produced all three touchdowns in regulation as well as the scores in the first and second overtimes. But Ruffin was quick to credit Gray and the line in front of him with the victory.

“He’s a young leader of the team leading us to victory,” Ruffin said. “I give credit to him, to the line. I don’t give credit to myself. I balled out today, but Kamal led us to the victory.”

As terrific as Friday’s victory was, it’s still only Week 2 and there’s still plenty of time to improve and compete more against a challenging schedule.

“It’s great, but we know we have to keep working,” Ruffin said. “We have more work to do.”

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