VHS boys to mix young, old

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 16, 2001

[11/16/01]The Vicksburg Gators aren’t so much resembling a soccer team this season as they are a chemistry experiment mix a few veterans, some young, inexperienced players, a few stragglers from the football team and hope it doesn’t explode.

VHS returns six lettermen from last season’s 8-8-2 playoff team only three of them starters but it will take a few weeks for all of the pieces to be put into place.

Midfielder Victor Parker and goalkeeper Sean McGowan are still playing football, while forward Michael Thornton, a second-team all-state player and the team’s leading scorer last season with 22 goals, won’t be available until January for academic reasons.

“I expect us to come out looking pretty shaky. Our goal is to come out playing well by Jan. 8,” VHS coach Josh Harper said, referring to VHS’ Division 6-5A opener against Natchez.

In the meantime, the Gators will rely on the volatile mix of older players such as senior defenders Kiger Sigh and David Matthews and junior forward Jeremy Johnson and younger players such as eighth-grade goalkeeper Eric Holland, eighth-grade midfielder Coleman Morrison and seventh-grade forward Colton Hanley.

Sigh said the younger players have talent, but bridging the communication gap between the age groups is difficult.

“I guess we have expectations. We hold everybody at a senior level, and they’re at a sophomore level. But it’s coming together,” Sigh said.

With Thornton out, the Gators are also having to adjust their offensive style. Instead of kicking the ball deep into an opponent’s end and letting Thornton get it, VHS is relying on more short, quick passes to set up scoring chances.

“That right there has hurt us. We’ve become so accustomed to playing the deep, long balls and letting Mikey outrun opponents,” Harper said. “I think we’ve got enough talent on the team right now, we’ve just got to find that new offensive scheme.”

Junior Russell Morrison will fill in for Thornton, and Harper was confident of his abilities.

“… (H)e’s got just as much skill,” Harper said.

The Gators have two months to adjust to the new style before facing Natchez, a game that begins a stretch of all three division games in a 10-day span. Juggernaut Clinton joins VHS and Warren Central under the MHSAA’s realignment, making securing a playoff spot even more difficult.

Previously, a weak Greenville team was in the division, all but ensuring a playoff spot for WC and VHS. Now, one of them probably the loser of their Jan. 15 match at VHS will miss the playoffs.

“You can’t underestimate anybody in this district any longer,” Harper said, adding that taking the WC game too seriously could also negatively affect his team.

“We’re just going to have to eliminate silly mistakes and not put all our emphasis on one game, that Warren Central game … We’re going to have to be patient.”