Late TD pass sends Gators home with first loss of season

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 25, 2000

GREENVILLE Vicksburg High was 31/2 minutes away from winning its Region 2-5A opener against Greenville Friday night, but a last-minute collapse sent the Gators home angry.

Greenville quarterback David Surney converted a fourth-down pass to Rod Bell his first completion of the night then hit Johnny Johnson for a 23-yard touchdown with 1:04 to play to give the Hornets (4-1, 1-0) a 21-17 win.

“Stupid mistakes and doing stuff that didn’t make sense. Mental mistakes, that’s what cost us the game,” said Vicksburg linebacker Tavares Hatchett, who had three sacks.

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Just minutes earlier, Scott Zingery drilled a 42-yard field goal to give VHS a 17-14 lead with 3:25 to play.

The lead nearly evaporated when Greenville’s Jontrel Wells found a seam and returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the VHS 35. The Gators’ defense buckled down and forced a fourth-and-11 from the 36. Surney lofted a pass into coverage and Bell came down with it.

After an incompletion to the right corner of the end zone, Surney then hit Johnson on the same route for the lead. The Gators fumbled away the ensuing kickoff and the Hornets ran out the clock.

“We knew they were going to send pressure and we made a few adjustments to get the quarterback some time. We knew he could throw it if we got him some time,” Greenville coach Phil Short said.

VHS head coach James Knox said the Gators just let one slip away.

“If you’re going to lose, don’t give it away. I felt we quit at the last of the game,” Knox said. “We had all the opportunities in the world to win the ballgame, we just didn’t put it together.”

The game was a shootout in the Delta mud in the first half. VHS marched 52 yards in nine plays on its opening drive, scoring on a 6-yard TD run by Phelon Gray, who finished the game with 74 yards on 16 carries. A bad snap nixed the extra point.

Greenville used the mistake to briefly gain the lead. Jamie McChristian, who finished with 90 yards and two TDs on 20 carries, capped the drive with a 2-yard run. Marcus McChristian added the extra point for a 7-6 lead, but the Gators used another nine-play drive to reclaim the lead.

Reginald Wheatley lost a shoe on a twisting, spinning 12-yard run but he crossed the goal line to make it 12-7. Terry Cooper added the 2-point conversion on a run, and the lead held up until the fourth quarter, when a 10-yard TD run by Jamie McChristian tied it.

The Gators, who had been stymied in the second half, drove to the Hornets’ 14 before three straight running plays resulted in losses and Zingery drove home his field goal.

The Gators will need to bounce back from this loss in a short amount of time as the fifth-ranked Madison Central Jaguars, losers of just one region game in the last four years, will play at Vicksburg Memorial Stadium.

Kickoff for the Madison game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.