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Gators look to keep rolling at Brookhaven

[9/06/01] Although retired Vicksburg policeman Tom Harris won’t be on the sideline, Vicksburg High coach Alonzo Stevens is making sure his Gators have him in their hearts.

Harris, a 20-year member of the VPD and a longtime Gators’ supporter, is in a battle for his life after having a stroke, Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said.

“He’s a great guy and a big Gator supporter,” said Stevens, who is dedicating Friday’s game to Harris. “He’s no fair-weather Gator. He’s been there through the good times and the bad.”

So far, everything on the field has been good for Vicksburg (1-0).

The Gators’ 20-7 win over Louisiana power John Ehret in the Red Carpet Bowl earned them a No. 14 ranking in The Associated Press poll and a No. 8 ranking by The Clarion-Ledger.

“We have to make sure we stay focused,” Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said. “We can’t look ahead to anything except Brookhaven. We have to keep our feet on the ground.”

The Panthers (1-0) sport an explosive offense that scored 35 in beating Hazlehurst in the opener, but first-year coach Andrew Hickman is well aware that Vicksburg and Hazlehurst are quite different.

“Oh, we know they have a good club,” said Hickman, who came to Brookhaven from George County. “To beat a team like Vicksburg would help our program and this community. A win would give us clout and get the community fired up.”

A big win, Hickman said, will take a big effort: namely getting through or around the Gators’ massive offensive line, which averages more than 300 pounds per man.

“We definitely ain’t that big,” Hickman said with a chuckle. “We have a couple of big guys, but we average about 230 on the defensive line.

“We have to be able to get low and hopefully use speed to counter their size.”

Rayshone Autman (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) anchors both lines.

The Panthers could have trouble battling the Gators’ speed as well. Senior J.J. Brown rushed for a game-high 91 yards, while Justin Henry completed six passes and threw a touchdown in a 20-7 Red Carpet Bowl win over John Ehret.

“That’s in the past,” Stevens said. “We accomplished our first goal and that was to win the Red Carpet Bowl, but we celebrated and it’s over.”

The Gators racked up 252 yards in the opener and coaches are hoping to improve upon that.

Brookhaven, a Class 4A school, got 112 yards and a touchdown from running back Cornelius Allen, who also broke up a desperation heave into the end zone as time expired to preserve the Panthers’ win.

Quarterback Billy Williams (6-3, 200) threw a pair of touchdowns and ran for one. Maurice Parker caught both scoring passes.

Still, Hickman said his team is centered around the running game.

“We’re basically an I (formation) team with a tight end,” said Hickman, who did not receive film on the Gators’ opener, but had coaches scouting the game.

“We really aren’t sure what we could have used. That team from Louisiana they played ran a spread offense that we don’t.”