Gators end season with double-OT loss

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 4, 2002

[11/16/02]It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

Not in the cold and wind and mud, at the end of some bizarre video game that was played out on a real, live football field, on a play that was supposed to be an easy afterthought.

The Vicksburg Gators were supposed to end this season celebrating a state championship in Jackson. Instead, they saw it end prematurely on their own field, in double-overtime at the hands of Horn Lake, 55-54.

After a blocked extra point on VHS’ possession in the second overtime left the Gators ahead 54-48, Horn Lake quarterback Danny Canizaro hit Bobby Wilson for a 17-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to tie the game. Andy Keen then added the extra point to end the 3 1/2 hour marathon and send the War Eagles on to the second round.

“It’s tough. We gave it our all. I don’t know what to say,” said VHS quarterback Justin Henry, who was 11-for-17 passing for 229 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions. “It’s a killer. Our goal this year was to win a state championship, and we’re not going to get to do that.”

Horn Lake’s Brandon Jackson ran for 285 yards and six touchdowns, including five scores in the second half and overtime.

The teams combined for more than 900 yards of offense and each punted only once.

“We’ve had a couple too many of these this year, but we’ll take it as long as it goes down as a W’,” said Canizaro, who was 15-for-32 for 167 yards and one touchdown, and ran for another score.

Vicksburg had plenty of chances to put the game away, but either failed to deliver the knockout punch or watched helplessly as the War Eagles crawled out from every hole the Gators buried them in.

Horn Lake rallied from a 26-14 halftime deficit with a long drive to start the second half followed by a 24-yard TD run by Jackson after a VHS fumble.

Jackson’s score gave Horn Lake a 27-26 lead, but the Gators regained the lead on an 8-yard TD pass from Henry to A.J. Hicks and were ahead 34-33 when another potential knockout blow was literally knocked out of their hands.

Early in the fourth quarter, VHS fullback Phelan Gray broke a long run deep into Horn Lake territory. As he approached the goal line, however, he was stripped from behind. Horn Lake recovered the fumble and stayed in the game.

Later, Henry hit Ben Shelton for a 41-yard touchdown with 1:42 to play to increase the Gators’ lead to 41-33 and apparently put the game on ice, but Horn Lake marched right down the field for the tying score.

The drive continued after a roughing penalty negated a VHS interception on an end-around pass, and concluded when Jackson scored from 2 yards out with 24 seconds to play. Canizaro hit Wilson for the 2-point conversion to tie the game.

VHS drove to midfield before time ran out, but was forced to punt on fourth down, sending the game to overtime.

The Gators went on offense first, and Maurice Taylor scored touchdown of the game on the first play of overtime, and Brandi Head added the extra point to put VHS ahead 48-41.

Taylor, who also took a short pass 80 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the first half to put VHS ahead 26-14 at the break, finished with 207 total yards and three touchdowns.

Horn Lake wasn’t licked though. Canizaro ran to the VHS 1 on the first play of the War Eagles’ possession and, after two unsuccessful quarterback sneaks, Johnson scored on fourth down to make it 48-47. Keen added the extra point to tie the game.

“We weren’t giving up,” Jackson said. “The game was on the line, and we had to put it in there and that’s what we did.”

On the second play of VHS’ next possession, Henry hit Taylor on a 10-yard TD pass. This time, however, a horde of Horn Lake players broke through the line and blocked the kick to keep the score at 54-48.

Jackson was hit for a 7-yard loss on the War Eagles’ next offensive play, and that was followed by two straight incompletions. Just when things looked darkest, however, Canizaro pulled another rabbit out of his hat.

He hit Wilson with a pass just in front of VHS’ D’Eldrick Taylor, and ran around him and into the end zone for the tying score. When Keen put the extra point cleanly through the uprights, the game was over and VHS, the No. 1 team in the state in the preseason, saw its championship dreams shattered.

“It’s real hard. I thought we were going to go all the way this year,” VHS linebacker Rory Johnson said. “It’s a heartbreaker, because we thought we were going all the way to the state championship.”