Gators out to recapture magic of ’90

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 6, 2000

Vicksburg High defensive coordinator Robert Erves said tonight’s grudge match between the Gators and Warren Central could be compared to a prize fight.

“They’re going to try to smack us in the mouth and we’ll try to smack them in the mouth,” Erves said. “We’re going to go toe-to-toe.”

As has been the case in recent prize fight matches, rarely have the Gators (7-3, 3-3 Region 2-5A) knocked out the Vikings (8-2, 4-2), or even made it to the final round with them. WC holds an 18-1 advantage in the series, the lone VHS win coming in 1990 at Memorial Stadium, the sight of tonight’s game.

Coaches and players have raved about the excellent week of practice the Gators have gone through leading up to tonight. Many are relaxed, some are pumped up, but everyone is confident.

“The intensity in practice has been great,” offensive lineman Charles Wilson said. “We’re fired up and ready for them.”

The Gators will key their hopes on the running game, behind junior J.J. Brown, who has rushed for 671 yards and seven touchdowns, and senior Terry Cooper (407 yards, eight touchdowns).

Senior quarterback Antonio Rainey guides the offense and fullback Reginald Wheatley will start in place of injured Phelon Gray.

“If you look back at the last couple of weeks, we really have been stepping it up,” Cooper said. “The wins keep getting sweeter and sweeter … We don’t feel like anyone can stop our offense.”

A huge, but young offensive line will have its hands full with a talented, experienced WC defense.

The Gators have planned a couple of offensive wrinkles, but coaches would not elaborate.

“We’ve put some new formations in this week,” said offensive lineman Andre Bennett, a 6-foot-4, 350-pounder. “Our speed is a key.”

The Gators racked up more than 510 yards on the ground against Gentry a week ago.

As usual, the Gators feel WC will try to pound the ball at them.

“We have to be able to hit (fullback John Hicks) hard and early behind the line of scrimmage,” senior linebacker Steven Caldwell said. “If he does get past the line, all we have to do is hit him. He’s not that big of a factor.”

Clinton has been the only team this year to shut down WC’s running game, forcing it to pass.

“I thought the game plan Clinton had was great,” Erves said. “I hope we come with something similar….”

Safety David Heard, who helped virtually shut down the state’s leading passer, Michael Spurlock, a week ago, said he hopes the Vikings go to the air often.

“I want him to pass, I really do,” Heard said of WC quarterback Brett Morgan. “He really doesn’t do anything spectacular, but he is a very solid quarterback. He reads the field and makes good decisions. We have to be ready …”

The Gators bring a solid kicking game into the showdown.

“We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” Stevens said. “We have a chance to see what this team is made of. I feel good about it.”