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Gators hang on, clinch trip to playoffs

J.J. Brown of VHS goes in for a 7-yard touchdown ahead of Callaway’s Lorenzo Taylor late in the third quarter.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[10/27/01]It was a senior night at Vicksburg High, but a sophomore saved the Gators.

After Callaway took a three-point lead with just over six minutes left, Maurice Taylor returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to give VHS a 24-19 win.

“It was just a matter of time” before he broke one, coach Alonzo Stevens said. “That was one for the ages.”

Taylor’s heroics helped the No. 14 Gators (7-2, 4-1 Region 2-5A) overcome several bad breaks and bad bounces to seal a playoff berth against the Chargers (4-5, 1-4), who went ahead 19-16 when Geoffrey Gray connected with Terrance Jones for a 79-yard touchdown on third-and-10.

“We let this one get away,” Callaway coach Gerry Anderson said. “We should have kicked it out of bounds.”

Chris Humes had two interceptions in the second half. The first set up J.J. Brown’s 7-yard score that capped an 11-play, 76-yard drive, giving the Gators a 16-13 lead near the end of the third quarter.

Humes went high to grab Gray’s pass midway through the fourth quarter and returned it 22 yards for an apparent touchdown, but the ball bounced out of his hands as he dove toward the goal line. The officials ruled it a touchback for the Chargers.

“I think we should have at least had the ball at the 1,” Humes said.

But Humes did have a hand in the game-winning score. Taylor took the ball up the middle, then went toward the Callaway sideline before cutting back to the VHS side and taking it in.

“(Humes) waved at me and led me down the sidelines,” said Taylor, who had been stopped by the last Callaway defender on his first return, a 39-yarder. “I told the managers that if I got it again, I was going to score.”

Brown led the Gators with 139 yards on 13 carries and Phelan Gray had 66 yards, including a 2-yard TD, on 13 carries.

Justin Henry was 3-of-4 for 42 yards, all in the first half, while Geoffrey Gray was 6-of-10 for 142 yards. Jones’ 29-yard circus catch on third-and-10 set up Larry Thomas’ 1-yard score, which gave Callaway a 12-9 lead with 12 seconds left in the half. Thomas led the Chargers with 94 yards on 12 carries.

Wayne Early put Callaway on the board first with a 33-yard run up the middle near the end of the first quarter.

VHS got its first points with a safety after Callaway recovered a fumble in the end zone. VHS fumbled inside the 10-yard line twice.

“We can’t overlook anybody,” said Stevens, who had warned his players about looking past Callaway after beating rival Clinton last week.

“I’m just glad to get it under our belt. This puts us right where we want to be.”

After Taylor’s TD followed by a two-point conversion run by his brother, D’Eldrick VHS forced a fumble and Casey Younger recovered. VHS fumbled it back and the Chargers, helped along by back-to-back VHS personal fouls, drove down to the 35 before D’Eldrick Taylor dropped Thomas for a loss, then Humes caught him for a 9-yard loss on fourth down to seal it.

Humes said, “We just didn’t come out to play.”

On the positive side, the Gators probably won’t look past anyone else, Stevens said, adding, “and I won’t have to say a word.”