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Inspired Gators win one for ailing Erves

[11/03/01] Vicksburg High’s Phelan Gray was given the game ball for his 117-yard, two-touchdown performance on one condition: On Monday, he has to give it up.

Gray, who led the Gators to a playoff-clinching 27-24 win over Forest Hill, will get the ball signed by the team, then give it to longtime defensive coordinator Robert Erves.

Erves is in St. Dominic’s Hospital undergoing tests for a possible artery blockage in his heart. Coaches do not know when Erves will return.

“I missed him tonight,” said VHS coach Alonzo Stevens, who can clinch a home playoff game with a win over archrival Warren Central on Friday night. “This is the first time in 20-something years that I have been on the sidelines at Vicksburg High and he wasn’t there.”

Erves, the Gators’ (8-2, 5-1 Region 2-5A) defensive coordinator, missed a doozy.

Ricky Helom scored a pair of touchdowns and rushed for a game-high 172 yards, but only 40 in the second half. After a 73-yard touchdown run by Jimmy Cavett to give Forest Hill (6-4, 2-4) a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter, the Gators allowed only 48 yards on the ground.

“They came out with something different than we expected,” Vicksburg linebacker Tim Brown said. “But our coaches made the right adjustments in the second half.”

While the Brown-led Gators’ defense was shutting down the Rebels, the offense took over.

Using a run-oriented attack because of a halftime ankle injury to quarterback Justin Henry, Gray rushed for 101 yards on 15 carries and scored a third-quarter touchdown to give the Gators a 20-17 lead. He then added a 15-yard TD run less than two minutes into the fourth quarter to seemingly ice the win. Henry iced his ankle at halftime and returned for the entire second half.

“We needed to come out and get a big win and I had to step it up a notch,” Gray said.

J.J. Brown added 117 yards on 13 carries as the Gators racked up 267 yards on the ground, while the Rebels gained 274 on the ground.

Michael Rainey scored a first-quarter touchdown less than two minutes into the game, and after Helmon gave the Rebels a 7-6 lead, David Drake added a 21-yard field goal for a 10-6 Forest Hill lead midway through the second quarter.

Henry scored four minutes later on a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a 14-10 halftime lead. Henry will play Friday against the Vikings. His 53 yards passing put him over the 1,000 yard plateau for the season.

Cornerback David Heard is questionable for the matchup with WC after the standout senior stepped in a sprinkler hole and injured his toe.

Also, offensive lineman Charles Wilson was ejected midway through the third quarter and his status for Friday night is in doubt.

For Stevens, the enjoyment of the win will be short-lived.

“We’ll enjoy this one tonight, go to church on Sunday, then on Monday, it’s on,” Stevens said.