South Pike blasts reeling Gators, 41-14

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 21, 2002

MAGNOLIA South Pike not only handed No. 6 Vicksburg its helmet, it threw in the shoulder pads and cleats in a lopsided matchup in South Mississippi.

The Eagles turned four Gators’ turnovers into 26 points en route to a 41-14 blowout.

“We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to fix it,” said VHS coach Alonzo Stevens, whose team dropped to 2-2 on the year and will likely lose a state ranking that they have had since the opening week. “Right now, we are not a good football team.”

A porous Vicksburg defense allowed the Eagles to run at will up the middle, including a 76-yard touchdown run by Dewayne Pittman on the third play of the game. Pittman led all rushers with 117 yards on 19 carries, with 115 of those coming in the first half as South Pike rocketed out to a 22-6 lead at the break. Jesse Burton added an 8-yard run for a score following a Vicksburg fumble and Sedric Elzie scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter after the Gators pulled to within 14-6.

“We rebounded from last week and played well,” said South Pike coach Greg Wall, coming off a mistake-laden 24-7 loss to Warren Central. “I was scared to death of the Gators. They are big and strong and have a great leader in the quarterback.”

Justin Henry completed only 9-of-23 passes and was intercepted once. He threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Keith Ferguson in the third quarter and ran in the 2-point conversion.

That sequence had Vicksburg back in the game with momentum, down by only a touchdown. The Gators took the opening kick of the second half and marched 59 yards in 12 plays eight of them Phelan Gray runs and used up 7 1/2 minutes to get to within 22-14.

South Pike answered like they had all night quickly and efficiently. The Eagles even stole a page from the Gators’ biggest rival, Warren Central.

Quarterback Fred Jones hit Burton on a wheel play less than five minutes after Vicksburg pulled within eight. Burton came out of the backfield, did a cross with the wide receiver and found himself wide open in the end zone.

“That was a big play and one we had worked on for a while,” Wall said. “We kind of copy-catted it from Warren Central. They like to run what we call a 90-x out there. That was the first time we have run it with him in the backfield.”

Trailing 29-14, Vicksburg abandoned the run for the next two drives, but Henry completed 4 of 13 passes during that span. Several were hurried by a fierce pass rush, some were dropped, others fell incomplete.

“That long touchdown pass broke our momentum,” said VHS defensive back D’Eldrick Taylor, who had an interception right before halftime. “We have to come out more focused from the start and execute better.”

Jones crashed any comeback aspirations with a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown as the Gators were driving down the field. Henry left the game after that drive after being “cheap-shotted” on several different occassions. South Pike held a 35-14 lead when Henry left the game in the fourth quarter.

“I hate to see people take cheap-shots on Justin,” Stevens said. “That’s not called for.”

No penalties were called on the three or four hits Stevens called “cheap.”

Backup quarterback James Jackson was intercepted by South Pike’s Charles Green on the next possession after the ball skipped off of Ferguson’s hand.

Three plays later, Eagles’ backup QB Vincent Wheatley scored on a 20-yard run for the 41-14 lead.

Vicksburg, which entered the season ranked No. 1, has little time to rest. The Region 2-5A schedule starts on Friday night at much-improved Northwest Rankin. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.

“We have to pick up stronger on Monday,” offensive lineman Delvechio Ellis said. “We have to take responsibility and do what the coaches say and not try to be an outlaw.”