Gators look to bounce back in new season’

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 28, 2001

[9/28/01]Vicksburg High players and coaches remember last year’s Region 2-5A opener. It’s not a pleasant memory.

Like this year, the Gators had ripped through the non-division and entered the opener 4-0. This season, the Gators come into the game 3-1.

Like last year, Vicksburg was set to play a region team that it should have handled.

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Coaches hope the outcome is the only difference this time around.

Coming off their first loss of the season, 32-26 to South Pike, Vicksburg opens play against Northwest Rankin (2-2).

But thoughts of last year’s Greenville game still linger.

It was the Hornets who upset the Gators and ultimately cost them a playoff berth last year.

“Our scouting report this week is win or go home,’ ”

Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said of the importance of region wins. “You have to make sure you win the ones you’re supposed to.”

The Greenville loss put a sour note on the remainder of the 2000 campaign.

“We were out of the playoffs after the first region game and it showed the rest of the year,” Stevens said. “That game became the one we had to win.”

Vicksburg eventually lost to Madison Central, Clinton and Warren Central and missed the playoffs.

“We got our kids’ attention,” Stevens said.

“This is the second season and everyone is equal 0-0.”

In Northwest Rankin, the Gators face a team that put a scare into Pearl earlier in the season before being beaten handily by No. 1 Brandon, 26-3.

Stevens said his team responded to its first loss with its best week of practice since summer.

“While the coaches were breaking down film Friday night, we wondered how this team will react,” Stevens said of the first loss, which dropped the Gators from No. 8 to 18 in The Associated Press poll.

“It hurt a lot of our guys, I could see it in their eyes.

“On Monday, they came out focused and ready to get after it.”

The Gators will look to its speed to counter a slower, more methodical Northwest Rankin team.

Vicksburg is paced by senior J.J. Brown, who is tops in Region 2-5A with eight touchdowns. He’ll be another difference from last year’s regional opener. He missed that game with an injury.

“(Northwest Rankin) can put up some points and are a well-disciplined football team,” Stevens said. “We respect them a great deal, but we have to play.”