Gators cherish shot at revenge
Published 12:00 am Monday, November 19, 2001
[11/19/2001]Phelan Gray said Vicksburg High was cheated in its first matchup with Madison Central.
VHS coach Alonzo Stevens said then that he believed his team would beat the third-ranked Jaguars by two touchdowns, but ended up losing the game 10-0 in a driving rainstorm.
They’ll both get their chance at redemption on Friday this time on a dry field called the Swamp.
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“I do think we got cheated,” Gray said before the Gators’ game against Warren Central. “We should have won that game.”
Since that loss on Oct. 5, the Gators are 5-1 and are coming off their first playoff win since 1993. Madison struggled to get past Greenville, the Region 1-5A fourth seed, 10-7 Friday night. Madison also lost to rival Clinton in the regular-season finale.
“I don’t want to say anything bad about them because I respect them,” said VHS’ J.J. Brown, who had a pair of touchdowns in the 29-28 win over Columbus. “But now they are coming to the Swamp and have to see how a real team plays when they are at home.”
VHS went 4-1 at home this year, losing the home-opener to South Pike, 32-26. As in that game, mistakes and turnovers doomed Vicksburg at Madison.
Using a spread offense to take advantage, the Gators continually moved the ball up and down the field only to have two of apparent TDs negated. Gray fumbled into the end zone on a 30-yard run and at the goal line on a fourth-and-1.
Video of the game showed Gray crossed the goal line on the fumble. Added to that, the Gators turned the ball over four times and receivers dropped several Justin Henry passes.
“That first one we all felt we should have won,” Henry said Friday, after the Gators’ win. “This, though, is what we’ve wanted.”
The MC game also sparked the resurgence of the Gators’ defense. After allowing 27 points to Northwest Rankin and 32 to South Pike, the Gators allowed just one touchdown and two big plays to the Jaguars. A long pass and a 32-yard run that set up the only Jags’ score was the only offense. VHS held MC under 200 yards.
Kickoff at Memorial Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m. A big crowd is expected for the Gators’ first home playoff game since 1994.
“I think we’ll play total team ball again Friday night,” VHS defensive coordinator Robert Erves said. “At times, we’ve been hitting on only half a cylinder, but we’ll be full blast on Friday.”