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Man beneath the mask
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Let's make one thing clear: Eastside's Justin Wray is not just your average high school quarterback.

On Friday, Wray led his visiting Eagles to a 23-16 victory over Lovejoy, keeping their record perfect this year in four games.

Against the Wildcats, Wray completed 7-of-10 passes for 61 yards and one touchdown. On the ground, he had 12 carries for 132 yards and one touchdown, accounting for nearly 200 yards of offense.

Based on his noteworthy performance, Wray has been chosen as the Chick-fil-A Prep Athlete of the Week.

"He played well (and) did some really good things with the ball," said Eastside head coach Rick Hurst. "I was glad the way he managed the game by not putting ourselves in bad situations."

Last week, the Eagles tied a school record by starting the season 4-0. But it hasn't been all about Wray this year, and the junior quickly acknowledges that success has come by way of the entire team, rather than merely one individual.

"I contribute that to everybody," said Wray of Eastside's profound success. "The coaching staff, the offensive line and all of the skilled players (who) surround me that help get us the win. We've been very successful (throughout) the year. We just (have) to keep going, keep pushing and keep working hard in practice."

Overall, Wray has completed 61.8 percent of his passes (47-of-76) for 572 yards, including 7 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in four games. In addition, he has rushed for 444 yards (8.1 YPC) and 2 touchdowns.

"He's a very humble kid," said Eastside offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jay Cawthon. "Justin gives the offensive line a lot of credit, and they really appreciate that.

"Everything has slowed down for him," added Cawthon, "and he has another year of experience. He's not an arrogant kid, by no means, but he is confident, and you have to be confident at that position. He wants to be successful and is not afraid of failure."

Although Wray is just 16 years old, he has been playing football since he was 5. He admits that Tennessee quarterback Vince Young is his current favorite NFL player.

"I've had a lot of favorites," said Wray, "but there have been a lot of people (who) have helped me along the way."

Like the rest of Eastside High School, Wray has enjoyed his team's impeccable 4-0 start. But how exactly have the Eagles managed to go from worst to first?

"We've just been working hard," said Wray, "and we have that thought in our minds: believe, compete and raise the bar. It's been very exciting for us."

In 2005, the Eagles were 0-10. Last year, they posted a respectable 5-5 record, with Wray taking the majority of the snaps. But this season has proven to be quite an upgrade - one that Eastside has never experienced in years past.

According to Hurst, Wray has a better understanding of what the Eagles want to do with another year of experience under his belt, and it has showed on the field.

"He's a tough kid," noted Hurst. "He makes things happen, so that's the reason why he's our quarterback."

Ironically, it seems that Young and Wray have something in common after all.