Final playoff berth at stake when Gators, Callaway square off

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 19, 2000

With only three games left in the regular season and their playoff hopes getting dimmer by the week, the Vicksburg Gators are beginning to feel some of the pressure of being a bubble team.

The Gators (5-3, 1-3 Region 2-5A), currently in fifth place in Region 2-5A, face fourth-place Callaway (5-3, 2-2) Friday night at Jackson-St. Joe. Only the top four teams in the region advance to the postseason, so VHS needs some wins in a hurry to have a shot at the playoffs.

“We can’t lose any more and make the playoffs. Our heads are against the wall now, so we’ve got to play,” VHS coach James Knox said. “If we lose, there’s no chance, unless a miracle happens. If we’re going to stay alive, we’ve got to win this week.”

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While the Gators are fighting for their playoff lives, Callaway is trying to stay in front for the last playoff berth. A win over the Gators would go a long way toward giving Callaway its first trip to the postseason since 1995.

“This, no doubt, is a big game,” Callaway coach Gerry Anderson said. “Because the team that wins will be no worse than 3-4 in the district and 3-4 will get you that last playoff spot.”

VHS enters the game feeling the after-effects of last week’s 41-6 loss to Clinton in more ways than one.

Sophomore defensive back D’Eldrick Taylor will have to sit for the first three quarters after being ejected in the third quarter last Friday, while senior linebacker Tavares Hatchett, the team leader in sacks and tackles, will miss the game while serving a school suspension for fighting.

“It’s going to hurt us some, but we’re going to have to suck it up and go on,” VHS defensive coordinator Robert Erves said. “The gameplan is still the same, it’ll just give us the chance to look at some young kids.”

Senior Michael Brown and junior Chris Humes will start in place of Taylor and Hatchett, and will try to slow down the Chargers’ run-based attack.

“They can come in and play … That won’t hurt us,” Erves said.

Offensively, Anderson may want to pick a fight with a few of the Gators players. The VHS offense has accumulated 800 passing yards led by Antonio Rainey’s 638 and over 1,300 yards on the ground, split mostly among four different backs.

“I don’t like their offense. I hate that to death,” Anderson said with a laugh. “All that misdirection sometimes makes us lose our minds a little bit.”

Both coaches said the teams are evenly matched, but Knox said he has some extra incentive for winning. It makes his breakfast go down easier.

“It would be sweet to come home with a victory,” Knox said. “It’s a whole lot easier on Saturday morning, reading that paper when you get a victory.”