Gators rebound with 41-13 thumping of Cougars

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 30, 2002

[09/28/02]BRANDON In a Region 2-5A battle that Vicksburg High coach Alonzo Stevens declared as “the beginning of a new season,” the Gators got off to the kind of start that everyone had expected in a 41-13 rout of Northwest Rankin Friday.

The Vicksburg (3-2, 1-0 Region 2-5A) offense lived up to preseason expectations as Justin Henry threw for 129 yards and one touchdowns and ran for a score. Maurice Taylor led all rushers with 106 yards and two touchdowns and Phelan Gray ran for 99 yards and a touchdown.

D’Eldrick Taylor and Jermaine Wright had interceptions, Wright’s a 75-yard touchdown return, and Chris Cox had a sack.

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“The sleeping giant has awoken,” Stevens said.

And early.

It took the Gators all of twenty seconds to score their first touchdown of the game on the first offensive possession. An ordinary handoff to Gray was turned into a 72-yard flea-flicker from Henry to Ben Shelton for a TD and a 7-0 lead.

“We were going to come out and gun it and take shots down the field,” Stevens said.

“We wanted to turn it loose and take the game to the other side of the field instead of waiting for them to take it to us.”

The Cougars, coming off the biggest win in school history over Brandon a week ago, attempted to do just that as they put a 3-minute drive on the back of running back Philip Armstrong to work themselves into position for Ragan Walters’ 35-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.

The Gators answered in one play when Maurice Taylor went 80 yards for a touchdown and a 13-3 four minutes into the first quarter.

“Those two big plays hurt us early,” Cougars coach David Coates said.

Northwest Rankin (3-2, 0-1) used a relentless ground game to move 67 yards in five minutes, and Armstrong closed the Gator lead to 13-10 on a 20-yard touchdown run.

VHS began the second quarter with a eight minute drive that resulted in missed 23-yard field goal, but didn’t wait long to atone for the missed opportunity as D’Eldrick Taylor intercepted a third-down pass.

Vicksburg failed to take advantage when Northwest recovered a fumble at their own 2-yard line. Northwest gave it right back on a fumble and Henry scored on a 2-yard run to give VHS a 20-10 halftime lead.

“Vicksburg had plenty of ways to hurt us, and we just missed opportunities,” Coates said.

Henry was 6-for-7 passing in the first half and the Gators had 269 yards total offense compared to the Cougars’ 113.

The Cougars used a 5-minute drive in the third quarter to close the lead to 20-13 on Walters’ 32-yard field goal, but it would be the last points the Gators would allow.

Gray scored on a 15-yard run with two minutes remaining in the third for a 26-13 lead, and Wright finished the Cougars’ following drive with a 75-yard interception return in the fourth quarter for a touchdown and a 33-13 lead.

Maurice Taylor put an exclamation mark on the Gators’ night with a 21-yard touchdown run for a 41-13 lead.

“We wanted to be 5-0 at this point, but this is a new season and we will take this,” Stevens said.