Goal for Vicksburg’s Statesmen: Bring home title
Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 7, 2000
Brian Oakes desperately needs a haircut. Cory Wilson wants to add to his jewelry collection. Deforest Hart wants to make a splash on national TV in his last college game.
The three Vicksburg natives have different goals for this Saturday’s Division II national championship game against Bloomsburg (Pa.) in Florence, Ala., but they also share a common one to bring Delta State its first national football title.
“It may happen only one time in your life. You aim to get there, and once you get there, you aim to take the big prize home,” said Oakes, an assistant tight ends coach at Delta State who played for Warren Central and Hinds.
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One of Oakes’ consolation prizes will be a haircut. He’s been afraid to cut it throughout Delta State’s playoff run, fearing bad luck would come to the Statesmen, and it has grown into a floppy mass of curly red hair.
“My mom came up and said I need to get a haircut, but I can’t cut my hair. I know it’s out of hand, but I can’t cut it now,” Oakes said with a laugh.
The trio knows a thing or two about playing for titles, especially Wilson. While all three won state titles at Hinds, Wilson will be going for his fifth championship ring.
He won two at Hinds (1994, 1995), a Gulf South Conference title as a player for Delta State in 1998 and a share of the GSC title this season. He was also on Warren Central’s state runnerup team in 1993, and his 1995 Hinds squad finished second in the country after winning the state title.
“I’m kind of getting lucky,” said Wilson, a graduate assistant who helps coach linebackers for the Statesmen. “I keep ending up in the right places.”
Wilson added that there is no comparison between playing for state bragging rights and playing to be the best in the nation.
“This is a big difference, because you look at a state championship as being a big game, but it’s not like playing for a national championship,” he said.
Hart, a senior slotback for DSU who won a state title at Hinds in 1997, echoed Wilson’s thoughts.
“A state championship doesn’t have nothing on a national championship. National is a whole other level.
“Out of all these D-II schools, we’re the only two left,” Hart said. “When you’re going up for a national championship, you’re looked at as one of the elite in the nation.”
Hart added that having played in a championship game before is helping him this week.
“It kind of put me in that mentality that I’ve been there and know what it takes,” he said.
Hart played a bigger role in the Statesmen’s success during the regular season than he has in the playoffs, where he’s mostly been used as a blocker and a decoy.
He ranks third on the team in rushing and receiving, but hasn’t caught a pass in DSU’s last two playoff wins and has had only a handful of carries.
He’s happy the Statesmen are winning, but said he would like to do more than just block in Saturday’s game, his last as a college player.
“I was looking at film and I’m just kind of like, block, block. I decided to settle down this week. But as long as we win, it’s a team thing,” he said.
“It’s all about winning the whole thing now, and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
Like Oakes and Wilson, Hart said getting motivated for Saturday’s game wasn’t a problem. But playing in front of a national audience on ESPN one that includes friends and family unable to make the trip to Florence would provide even more motivation.
“We’re on TV, ESPN, so it’s really a whole other ballgame,” Hart said. “I told (friends) they’ve got to stay on the couch and watch it.”