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Gators look to avoid letdown vs. Chargers

[10/26/01]After last week’s big win over Clinton and with the playoffs, a key region game against Forest Hill and their annual grudge match with Warren Central in sight, the Vicksburg High Gators face a classic “sandwich” game tonight when they host Callaway on senior night at Memorial Stadium.

The Gators, however, are determined not to have a letdown and promised to make Callaway just another step in the Region 2-5A food chain.

“Callaway always has a good football team, and we’ve got to play. This time of year every game is crucial and our kids understand that,” VHS coach Alonzo Stevens said.

In case Stevens’ point wasn’t clear, the VHS coaches drove it home earlier this week with a pep talk designed to burst any inflated egos the No. 14 Gators (6-2, 3-1 in region play) may have had after their 30-10 win over Clinton last Friday.

The coaching staff spent nearly an hour on Tuesday reminding their players to keep their head on straight and their eyes on the prize a home playoff game and a shot at the school’s first region title since 1990. The last time Vicksburg played a lesser opponent, Murrah, they led by one point at halftime before winning by 18 in a sloppily played game.

“I wanted to lay it on them that, Hey, you’re good, but there’s still work to do,” Stevens said. “They’re a great group of kids, but they’ve got to stay focused.”

VHS quarterback Justin Henry, who leads Warren County in passing with 932 yards, said it worked and there was no danger of a letdown this week.

“If there was, we’ve already got it out of our system. If anything, we’re going to be more pumped,” Henry said.

“They’re always going to have good athletes over there. You can’t take Callaway lightly.”

Callaway (4-4, 1-3) should be, too. The Chargers are in sixth place in Region 2-5A, but only one game out of fourth and the final playoff spot. A win would boost their playoff hopes tremendously, but a loss would cripple them.

“On defense. we’re going to have to play our game and do like we’ve been doing all year. Stay away from the big plays and get some big plays,” said Stevens, whose team has allowed only 12 points per game this season.

While the Gators are having their best season in nearly a decade, Stevens also pointed out that the best is yet to come. With 45 sophomores on the roster, he said this year’s stretch run will also be a valuable learning experience for the younger players who will carry the team over the next few years.

“That’s where it starts. That’s where Clinton and Madison Central and all of them start,” Stevens said. “They’ve all been in that challenge. That’s the only way we’re going to be in this situation is to get in this situation and know how to be there.”