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Gators’ fastbreak offense drops NW

[9/30/01]Even with their best big-play threat sidelined, the big plays kept on coming for the Vicksburg High Gators.

Four times, they scored on the first play of a series as they beat Northwest Rankin, 46-29, Friday night in the Region 2-5A opener for both teams.

Justin Henry was 6-of-10 for 172 yards and two touchdowns and fullback Phelan Gray had six carries for 121 yards as the Gators (4-1) piled up 431 total yards.

“We’ve got those big-play people,” VHS coach Alonzo Stevens said. “They come to play, and that’s what it takes.”

The Cougars (1-4) took the lead on Cederick Spann’s 5-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but after that, it was off to the races.

J.J. Brown, who leads the Gators in rushing and receiving, answered with an 11-yard run after his nice 32-yard catch-and-run at the end of the first quarter.

That was his last play of the game. He left to get X-rays for what was suspected to be a separated shoulder.

The Gators, trailing 7-6, responded with a flurry of touchdowns, scoring three in a six-minute span in the second quarter to take a 29-7 lead.

On VHS’ first play of the period, Gray did his best Brown impression, darting up the middle for an 86-yard score. The next time the Gators touched the ball, Henry connected with Quinton Miles on a 53-yarder. A minute later, after a Jermaine Wright interception, Chris Humes scored on a 5-yard run after the ball got away from D’Eldrick Taylor after a 49-yard catch.

Henry ran for a two-point conversion on a fake kick and passed to Taylor for another as the Gators went up, 29-7.

“J.J. is a major player in our offense; he’s The Man,” Henry said. “We all knew we had to step up when he went out.”

The offense did, but the defense let the Cougars creep back into it.

They got a 22-yard score from Phillip Armstrong to close within 29-14 with 1:16 left in the half.

The third quarter belonged to the Cougars. Cedrick Spann, who finished with 204 yards on 33 carries, added touchdowns of 11 and 3 yards the latter after a high snap on a punt attempt gave Northwest the ball at the Vicksburg 33 then Geoff Ferrill hit T-Mac Howard for a two-point conversion to tie it at 29-29 with 9:16 left in the game.

The rest of the fourth quarter belonged to VHS, which broke out the fastbreak offense again.

Maurice Taylor sprinted 80 yards on a reverse on the Gators’ first touch of the final period.

“That one took the wind out of our sails,” Northwest coach David Coates said.

“If we stop them there, we’ve got the momentum.”

The Gators didn’t let up after that. After back-to-back sacks by Decorey Knight and Ray Kline, D’Eldrick Taylor tackled punter Adam Hand in the end zone for a safety.

David Heard took the ensuing free kick 70 yards to the end zone, but that play was called back on a clip. Three plays later, Henry hit Miles again for a 15-yard score on his only pass attempt of the second half.

“We got complacent,” Stevens said of the Cougars’ comeback. “But we got back up, and that’s what matters.”