Leavitt’s Stephen Gray, left, and teammate Desean Calder, middle, bring down Gardiner running back Collin Foye during their Class C South semifinal in Turner in 2017. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

DOVER-FOXCROFT — With over 80 players milling about the dorms at Foxcroft Academy, it’s easy for even some of the state’s most celebrated high school football players to blend in at the start of Lobster Bowl training camp.

Maine Lobster Bowl West Team player Stephen Gray speaks about Saturday’s game during media day at Foxcroft Academy on Tuesday. David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

That was not the case for Leavitt’s Stephen Gray, whose long, curly blonde hair make him stand out on and off the field.

“You certainly know he’s there,” said Bill County, an assistant coach at Leavitt and head coach of Gray’s West team at Saturday’s Lobster Bowl.

A local news station profiled Gray during last season, spreading the word on not only his flowing locks but his outstanding play at free safety and kicker for the Hornets.

So when players convened for the start of the 30th annual Maine Kora Shrine Lobster Bowl training camp last Sunday, Gray was one of the most instantly recognizable players.

“Yeah, they say ,’You’re the kid from Leavitt. ‘Sunshine.’ Goldilocks,’ whatever they call me,” a smiling Gray said.

Gray handles it all in good humor. He’s enjoying preparing to put the exclamation point on his football career with others who share his passion for the game.

“It’s exciting playing with a bunch of guys that love the game and know what they’re doing. It’s good stuff,” Gray said.

Few know what they’re doing on the field more than Gray.

“One of Stephen’s best qualities as a football player is his intelligence. He is a really smart football player,” County said. “He stands at free safety and diagnoses what he sees and he communicates that to other players.”

“I hear him correct things. A bad call is made and he’s back there and will correct it,” Country said.

That makes Gray a valuable asset to a coach who has less than one week to bring together dozens of people who have never met, let alone played football together, for a game played in front of thousands of fans.

Another Leavitt assistant, Mike Marston, is County’s defensive coordinator for the West, so having someone who already has established a line of communication with the person calling the defensive plays should help streamline things a little more.

In a game as high-scoring as the Lobster Bowl usually is, the defense needs all of the help it can get. Gray is proud to do his part as the glue guy.

“I’m not always the most athletic or most agile compared to all of the other guys, but you can do a lot by studying a lot of film and knowing what you’re doing out there so you can be there before the next guy,” said Gray, who is 6-foot-2, 170 pounds.

“I think just communicating well on the defense, making sure everybody is in the right positions, and knowing what they’re doing before the snap of the ball. That’s kind of what I’m good at,” Gray said.

Gray downplays what his impact will be on Saturday because, as he said, “They’re all smart guys. They all know what they’re doing.” But the East’s quarterbacks, receivers and running backs will learn quickly that Gray is almost always in position to make a play, or at least prevent them from making one.

“Another great quality is that he has sneaky speed,” County said. “He’s quick. He knows where the ball is going to go and he knows how to get there. He takes really good angles.”

Gray, who also qualified for states as a long and triple-jumper this year, will enroll at Thomas College in the fall and compete in track and field. That means Saturday will be the end of his football career.

It won’t be the end of his trademark locks, though. Even a projected heat index in the triple digits for Saturday won’t force him to shorten them.

“I’m not cutting it. The last time was fifth grade and I’m not doing it again,” he said.

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