Williams gets first start at fullback with The Bus’ nursing injured knee

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 11, 2002

[10/11/02]With Vicksburg High’s bus in the barn this week, the Gators will rely on a strawberry to keep pace with Warren Central in the wild Region 2-5A race.

Phelan Gray, a bruising 5-foot, 10-inch, 235-pound fullback, sprained a knee ligament in the Gators’ 38-31 win over Madison Central a week ago and will miss tonight’s game against the Mustangs (1-5, 0-2 Region 2-5A)

“I’m trying to stay off the leg, rehab it and get it right,” said Gray, who has rushed for 609 yards and five touchdowns. “I have to get it strong for next week (against Clinton).”

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Darrell Williams, nicknamed “Strawberry,” will be making his first start at fullback and he’ll bring a completely different dynamic to Vicksburg’s offense. At 5-6, 165 pounds, Williams is quicker than Gray and can get behind a mammoth offensive line. He scored his first career touchdown against Madison and had another taken away by a penalty.

“I can’t run with too much power, so I pick the hole as quick as possible and if I can get the hole, I got to go somewhere,” Williams said. “I just hope it’s going forward and not backward.”

Williams has 55 yards on 18 carries this season. His size can be deceiving, however. He’s the defending state champion in powerlifting in the 165-pound weight class and routinely lifts more than heavyweights, easily 100 pounds bigger than Williams.

“I can’t run like Phelan, I won’t even try to,” Williams said. “I want to do what I can.”

Gray’s injury is not the only one plaguing Vicksburg. Defensive end Johnny Daniel will miss his third straight start with an injured ankle. He said Thursday that he expects to be back on the field for next week’s game at Clinton.

Linebacker Rory Johnson missed most of the Madison Central game, but coaches said he should see playing time tonight.

Vicksburg sits atop the region standings alongside No. 6 Warren Central at 2-0. The Vikings play at Madison tonight.

After losing half of their first four games, Vicksburg rebounded to slam Northwest Rankin, 41-14, and hold on in last week’s thriller.

“I am happy that Madison and Northwest Rankin are behind us,” Stevens said. “They are seasoned teams that are not going to fall apart.”

Maurice Taylor, bottled up for most of the early part of the year, scored four touchdowns against Madison two receiving and two rushing as Vicksburg rolled up almost 450 yards of offense.

Murrah, on the other hand, has struggled to both score points and stop opponents. Operating out of a wide-open, multiple-set offense, the Mustangs have averaged less than a touchdown a game while the defense has surrendered an average of 28 points per game.

“We’re going to treat Murrah with all the respect in the world. They have some tremendous athletes,” Stevens said. “Murrah will play us hard. Every time you go over to Jackson, you better be ready to play.”

It will also be the first of a three-game road trip that won’t bring the Gators back home until November.

“The way things are going, I wish we could stay at home right now,” Stevens said. “But we got three on the road.”

With two of the tougher region opponents behind them, Stevens and the Gators must avoid a letdown leading into next week’s matchup with Clinton. The Arrows are in second place in the region at 2-1.

“They are the next district team and the most dangerous on the schedule right now,” Stevens said. “It’s week-in, week-out for us; we have to go in and play good football and execute our game plan.”