The Bus’ rolls over Vikings’ D’, into VHS history

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 11, 2002

[11/09/02]Just after Phelan “The Bus” Gray scored his first touchdown to give the Vicksburg Gators a 13-12 lead late in the first half, he looked at his team and said, “Hop on guys, we’re going for a ride.”

Little did he know that Warren Central players would be taking that same ride.

In a performance worthy of the record books in this series filled with Viking superlatives, the 5-foot, 10-inch, 240-pound Gray pummeled an overmatched WC defense for 242 yards on 35 carries.

It could have been 300. Gray was that dominating.

“I wanted to run hard, keep my eyes open and find the hole,” Gray said. “I had a chance to do that, so I took advantage.”

Gray had little trouble finding holes as a massive Gators’ offensive line ate up Warren Central’s defensive front. Safety Antonio Brown led the team with 12 tackles most against Gray.

It was also a slight change in offensive philosophy. Quarterback Justin Henry, who entered the game with more than 1,400 yards passing, attempted only six passes.

He didn’t have to.

“You always know the Bus is going to have a good game,” Henry said. “When we got out there in the first half, we just pounded em.”

Gray also gave the Gators a spark that died down quickly after they took the lead for the first time. VHS led 7-6 when WC’s Amos Chase returned the kickoff to the VHS 29-yard line. On the next play, WC retook the lead on a TD pass.

Then Gray, the offensive line and a play called 46-stretch opened the game up.

“We knew that play was open all night,” VHS senior lineman Delvechio Ellis said. “They couldn’t stop it at all.”

He reeled off a 38-yard run to the 50. Then toted it seven more times as the Gators drove to the WC 3-yard line.

With 13 seconds on the clock and no timeouts remaining, the Gators did, what else, hand off to Gray up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown.

“I told the guys hop on the bus,'” an exuberant coach Alonzo Stevens said. “We thought we could throw, but I pondered it all week and I said, man, this is a weapon.’ And they were going to have to show me they could stop him.

“When you got a gun, you got to shoot it.”

It also brought an end to sour memories for Gray after last season’s 27-14 loss to WC. In that game, Gray was held to 60 yards on 15 carries.

He was in a verbal war with Warren Central fullback John Hicks and was not a factor.

This week, Gray and the seniors kept things quiet around the fieldhouse. Practices were focused. This was not a normal week leading up to the biggest game of the year.

“We brought this thing to a second level,” said VHS offensive lineman Paul “Moose” Gorney, one of four 300-plus pounders on the line. “We gave all of our heart on the O-line. We just played.”

It was one play that put Gray’s performance in perspective. The Gators sat at their own 32-yard line needing two yards for a first down. Instead of punting, Stevens dropped the Bus into fourth gear, put chains on the tires and Gray got the first down.

“I was thinking back to eighth grade when I got stopped on fourth-and-one,” Gray said. “That hurt me back then and I knew I had to go real hard this time.”

On the night, he accounted for 16 of Vicksburg’s 20 first downs.

That was the biggest.

A game-sealing touchdown later, Vicksburg coaches and players took part in a celebration 11 years in the making.

Instead of the express Bus that down the field at will, Gray was getting the keys ready for a party bus.

“I got my seat,” Stevens said, gleaming.

So does the offensive line, some wide receivers, an intense defense and, most importantly, the driver.

Gray put on a show that will be remembered for years.

He deserves a victory drive.