Missy Gators poised for shot at sixth state title; Gators rely on youth

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 22, 2002

[11/20/02]The Vicksburg Missy Gators start this season where they seem to finish every season ranked No. 1.

Despite losing five starting seniors and with Brandon, the team that VHS beat for the state championship a season ago, having all of its starters back, the Missy Gators find themselves as the team to beat in Class 5A.

“I was a little surprised, but not really,” said Vicksburg coach Kevin Manton, who’s led his team to five state championships in the last seven years. “This group is unproven against a lot of those other teams. We lost five starters.”

But the ones VHS returned are the story. High-flying Brandi Parker, who has scored at least two goals in three of the first four VHS games this year, will provide the bulk of the scoring. Her 36 goals a season ago was tops in Class 5A.

In addition, sweeper Brandi Head returns from the football team to give the Missy Gators one of the strongest defenses around.

That will be needed as the Missy Gators will start a new goalie either freshman Megan Humphries or sophomore Kristy McCain. Last year’s goalie, Viola Howard, was moved to halfback.

The Missy Gators started the season 3-0-1 and are coming off a win over rival Madison Central. Senior Laura Peyton and sophomores Laura Johnston and Miranda Hunt will play key roles for VHS. Eighth-graders Holly Head and Jill Rush will also see plenty of time.

For the Gators, first-year coach Drew Kennedy has a truckload of talent, but hardly anyone would be able to drive the truck.

The Gators have two seniors and five juniors on the roster.

“We can only get better,” Kennedy said. “The ninth-graders all play club, they all play year round. So it’s not like we’re walking into a situation where you have to train, train, train.”

Senior Jeremy Johnson will provide a spark offensively, while senior Russell Johnson will anchor an inexperienced defense. Junior Sean McGowan returns in goal.

After that, however, Kennedy will look to youth and the future. Sophomore transfer Matt Minyard, who played last season for Columbus, can “just play,” Kennedy said.

The Gators enter the season as an underdog, being matched up with perennial state power Clinton and Warren Central. Kennedy, though, said not to overlook the Gators.

“I would pick Clinton and Warren Central as the favorites,” Kennedy said of the division race. “Don’t leave us out of the equation and don’t stamp anyone’s ticket yet.

“We’ll come to play and we may surprise some folks.”`