Johnson saves the day for Vicksburg

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 25, 2002

[10/26/02]Vicksburg linebacker Rory Johnson knew he had to do something with Callaway threatening to score on a second-and-goal in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.

Johnson just never envisioned forcing and recovering the game-deciding fumble with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the Gators’ 12-9 victory over Callaway Friday night.

“I was scared. I saw the fumble and had to go under somebody to get it,” said Johnson, whose team climbed right back into a first place tie in Region 2-5A with Clinton and Warren Central. “Everybody was calling quarterback sneak’ and I knew I had to get back there and stop him.”

Callaway got the ball back one more time after VHS quarterback Justin Henry ran out of the end zone instead of attempting a punt on fourth down. The safety pulled Callaway to within 12-9, but James Jackson intercepted a desperation throw with no time on the clock to preserve the win.

“We can score, we know that, and the defense played, putting us in good shape for the playoffs,” Gators coach Alonzo Stevens said.

With sloppy conditions on North Jackson Field, the Gators put their offense in the hands of Phelan Gray for 101 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown. Henry threw for 63 yards, including a touchdown strike to Michael Rainey, and Jermaine Wright had an interception.

The Gators’ offense came out strong, using Henry’s 18-yard pass to Maurice Taylor and a relentless running attack to eat up seven minutes of clock before Gray plunged in for a 1-yard touchdown. The extra point failed for a 6-0 lead.

Geoffrey Gray gave Callaway the lead with a 1-yard TD run with a minute to play in the first quarter.

The second quarter proved to be a prelude to the second half as fumbles and penalties hampered the offenses.

The Gators broke the stalemate and ravaged the play clock on a 5-minute drive to set up a 28-yard touchdown pass from Henry to Rainey with a minute remaining in the first half.

The Gators led 12-7 at the half after a failed two-point conversion and had 163 yards compared to the Chargers’ 52.

The second half was an offensive stalemate, but with eight minutes remaining in the game the Chargers made their move.

Larry Thomas ran for 33 yards to lead Callaway to the Gators’ 1-yard line with about 45 seconds to play.

The Gators snuffed the first run and Johnson forced and recovered the fumble on second down to secure the win for Vicksburg.

The Gators will host Forest Hill for homecoming on Friday night before the Nov. 8 showdown with crosstown rival Warren Central.

“We said back in the beginning that if we are going to win, we are going to win with the defense,” Stevens said. “They played tonight.”