'I still feel like my old self': No. 1 Chandler ready to unleash WR Kyion Grayes II after injury
Chandler senior wide receiver Kyion Grayes II initially was told by doctors it would be 12 weeks before he could play football again.
But here he is ready to make an impact in his season debut Friday night at Queen Creek.
Grayes, who committed last spring to Ohio State, is one of the country's best class of 2022 receivers. He proved to be a fast healer since suffering a dislocated elbow after a catch in a preseason scrimmage against Gilbert Williams Field on Aug. 25.
"I went to the ortho, and they told me 12 weeks," Grayes said. "So, in the back of my head I'm like, 'Dang.'
"But once the team doctor came and got me right, I'm back out here."
Grayes, who didn't need surgery, could have made his season debut two weeks ago against Gilbert Perry. He jparticipated in pregame warmups but was held out of the game as a precaution by the coaches.
"I warmed up for Perry, and that game, just being out there, the first time we were out for warmups I almost jumped off sides," Grayes said. "That's how excited I was. It made me want to play even more."
Grayes, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, was in his second week practicing with the team, going out on routes and catching passes. Coach Rick Garretson wanted to make sure Grayes could hit the sled first before he was willing to put him in a game.
Grayes wasn't cleared yet by the doctor to hit the sled. With the bye week following the Perry game, which was another Chandler rout, Grayes was given another week to get ready.
"Quaron and Nason, they've been waiting for me to come back," Grayes said. "Us three on the same field is deadly. That's a scary combo. They've held the rank and did what needed to be done since I've been gone.
"But now all three of us back, there's no stopping us all."
Now it's go time. And trying to contain Chandler's offense gets a whole lot tougher.
Queen Creek, rolling at 6-0 with a tough defense, will see if it can be the team that derails the Wolves, who are on a 42-game winning streak.
The Wolves receiving corps will be at full strength Friday. Senior tight end Nason Coleman began playing four weeks ago, coming off a 2020 season in which he didn't play because of knee surgery.
Chandler has its Big 3 of Grayes, Coleman and speedy senior slot receiver Quaron Adams at the same time for the first time this season. Add in Jamere Haskell and sophomore Justice Spann, there may not be a better receiving corps in the state, let alone the country.
And quarterback Blaine Hipa is just warming up, throwing for 1,400 yards and 19 touchdowns with just three interceptions in the five games he has played.
Garretson believes Grayes will pick up where he left off the last time he played in a game.
"I wouldn't want to cover him," Garretson said.
Garretson said Grayes' absence only "built up our depth" at receiver.
Grayes, however, is the game changer. He was among the best players in the Elite 11 Open during the summer, catching passes from future Ohio State teammate Quinn Ewers.
It was during a visit to Ohio State this season, meeting with head coach Ryan Day and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, that Grayes was determined even more to get back on the field during his senior season.
"One of the reasons why I felt I could come back so soon was when I went out there for the Oregon game, I talked to Coach Hartline and Coach Day. They were like, 'We want to see you back on the field, because, regardless of whatever happens, when you do come here, we got you if anything does happen again.
"With their blessing it felt even better to know that they have my back, regardless of what happens."
Grayes isn't worried about getting reinjured. He wears a protective elbow brace. Coleman also wears a brace on his surgically repaired knee.
"It doesn't really affect me too much," Grayes said of the brace. "I still feel like my old self."
Chandler wide receivers coach Chad Carpenter will see how Queen Creek lines up on defense with coverage.
"I always think in high school football guys are going to different things, and forget that you only have a certain amount of time during the week," Carpenter said. "They're undefeated. If I'm them, I don't know if I'm changing a lot. They're doing things right.
"Whether they adjust with Kyion back, I don't know if they'll change much. But you never know. Our job is to make sure we're ready for anything Queen Creek does. We know they're going to come out and play hard. That's just who they are. They're just tough players. You have to come out quick and fast and have a great tempo against them."
Carpenter can see how much Grayes is ready to make an impact just by the way he's been practicing.
"When it first happened (the injury), we thought he was done for the season," Carpenter said. "But each week, he would say, 'Hey, Coach, I've got good news.' He was just so energetic. He's been so positive about everything."
Grayes has never lost a varsity football game in his career.
Last year, in his season debut, a 44-10 rout of Peoria Liberty, Grayes had five catches for 138 yards and four TDs. He ended up with 10 TD catches in eight games.
Will he make an instant impact Friday?
Grayes just wants to be with his teammates on the field. It's been agonizing watching from the sideline for six games.
"The one thing I did miss was being out there with my guys," Grayes said. "Being on the sideline, it really hurt me. But now that I'm back out there, I'm just blessed."
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