Rainey raises bar for himself, Gators

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 6, 2000

The good news for Antonio Rainey is that he had the best game of his varsity career in Vicksburg High’s opener. That’s also the bad news. It raises expectations for him for the rest of the season.

“I guess I will have to try to live up to that every game,” the Gators senior quarterback said with a smile. “People are used to seeing us as a running team. Now we’ve shown them that we can pass, too.”

Brookhaven coach Gregory Wall noticed. His Wildcats come to Memorial Stadium tonight.

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“You can tell he’s got another year of experience,” said Wall, whose team lost to the Gators 49-41 last year.

Rainey, who completed just 31 percent of his passes in 1999, went 7-of-9 for 162 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score in a 21-20 season-opening win over Greenwood in the Red Carpet Bowl.

“He had his best game,” VHS coach James Knox said of Rainey. “He stood in there like a senior should.

“I guess he felt a little pressure behind him,” Knox added with a chuckle, referring to highly touted sophomore backup quarterback Justin Henry.

Rainey credits the summer passing league, which the Gators won, for his improvement. But when pressed, he admitted that Henry’s presence makes him work a little harder.

“It’s like coach said, we make each other better,” Rainey said. “We help each other out and that makes us a better team.”

No matter what the reason for his success, Rainey enjoyed the attention after spending a year in an offense that usually showcases the Gators’ ground game.

“I never really paid attention to how I did until people starting coming up to me and telling me,” he said. “The line, that was the best they ever blocked. When receivers weren’t open, I still had a place to go.”

Wall, who led South Pike to a state championship in 1996 then went to Brookhaven, said that VHS has an advantage since it’s played a game.

But Knox doesn’t see it that way.

“They had their whole coaching staff here watching us last week,” he said. “All we have is last year’s film to watch. We’re going to have to play it by ear and make adjustments as we go.”

And that’s not very helpful, seeing how most of Brookhaven’s skill players are gone. Its starting quarterback flunked and its top linebacker quit after two years as a starter.

“We’re not at the same level as we were,” said Wall, who finished 4-5 last year. “We’ve got too many that haven’t played.”

The Wildcats’ top threat is wide receiver Fred Perkins, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound speedster. They will also rely on running back Cornelius Allen (5-7, 180), who rushed for 414 yards last year, and quarterback Corey Williams, who was 12-of-33 for 168 yards in limited playing time. Gone is Aaron Yarbrough, who rushed for 4,000 yards in his career and is now at Co-Lin.

The Gators counter with Terry Cooper, Phelon Gray and J.J. Brown in the backfield behind a line that averages 300 pounds.

Wall said that he doesn’t expect another shootout like last year. His team doesn’t have the firepower.

“They have a lot of speed, maybe more than last year,” Wall said of VHS. “They look good. They can run and they’re a threat to pass.”