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New’ Gators chasing after passing league crown

[6/11/03]Many of the faces are different, but the Vicksburg Gators are still primed for another Jackson Passing League championship.

“We really want to go out, have fun and give the kids something to do during the summer,” said VHS coach Alonzo Stevens, who will be trying to guide his team to their fourth straight passing league title.

The last two championships were under the guidance of quarterback Justin Henry. He signed to play baseball at Ole Miss, leaving the door open for several untested quarterbacks.

James Jackson, the rifle-armed left-handed pitcher for Vicksburg, is slated as the team’s No. 1 starter. Eugene Morgan and A.J. Hicks will back up Jackson. Steven Price, who was expected to battle for playing time under center, is only playing baseball.

“James has been through the fires,” Stevens said. “He fires that fastball 90 miles per hour and he can throw the football, too.”

Stevens said Jackson reminds him of Wayne County’s all-state quarterback Akeem Lofton in that he is quick on his feet, but can also throw deep.

Jackson’s biggest assets this summer will come from a host of fleet-footed receivers. Maurice Taylor and Ben Shelton, both clocked at near 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, return as seniors. Tight end Sean Gibbs brings his 6-foot, 2-inch frame to the mix as well.

The Gators rarely used the tight end in their unique wing passing attack, something that will change slightly, Stevens said.

The summer league, designed to work on both passing offense and defense, kicked off Tuesday behind Hughes Field in Jackson.

The Gators won their first four games on Tuesday, beating Terry 45-8, Murrah 26-23, Madsion Central 21-14, and Provine 17-6.

Harold Knight totaled three interceptions in the four games and Cortez Ashmore had two in the win over Terry, while Maurice Taylor and Cordell Gleese each totaled three touchdowns.

Jonathan Wilson had two touchdowns in the win over Madison Central, Hicks scored twice against Terry, and Jackson was 32-for-56 passing, with 10 TDs in three starts at quarterback.

Most of the JPS schools and the Gators participate in the month-long camp. Games are played each Tuesday until July 1, when a champion will be crowned.

“We have the kids’ interest,” Stevens said. “We’re going to do some of the same things we’ve done in the past, but also focus on some other things.”

The Gators open the season in the Red Carpet Bowl at 6 p.m. on Aug. 29 against Southaven at Warren Central.

Warren Central will play host to Gulfport after the Vicksburg game on the 29th.