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Distractions mar VHS’ preparation for lowly Bulldogs

[9/12/03]Alonzo Stevens was quite concerned about how his Vicksburg Gators would handle a game against a much weaker opponent.

On Wednesday, his worries increased tenfold.

The shooting death of a former student by a VHS student near the football stadium led to Stevens canceling practice on Wednesday afternoon.

“The kids heads weren’t in it,” said Stevens, who said he and other coaches talked to players about the shooting incident. “I felt it was best to just let them go be with their families.”

Ironically, this shooting comes one year to the week that the Gators had to deal with the death of one of their player’s brothers. That death happened on gameday, however.

The Gators planned to have their regularly scheduled walk-through on Thursday in preparation for a game against a team that has won one time in three years.

“We have to move on,” Stevens said. “You can’t let fear hold you hostage. You can’t let adversity get you down. You just have to learn from it.”

Stevens said concentration levels had not been as high because of the Bulldogs’ recent history.

Natchez is currently on a 13-game losing streak stretching back to 2001.

Since former South Delta coach James Denson has taken over the program in 2001, the Bulldogs have won one game by one point a 15-14 decision over Petal.

Last week, Natchez lost to South Pike 47-6 and the Bulldogs opened the season with a 14-12 loss to Class 3A Port Gibson.

Attempts to reach Denson were unsuccessful.

“They really are a good team,” Stevens said.

The Gators are riding the momentum of a thrilling 55-47 victory over Brookhaven in three overtimes. Quarterback James Jackson threw for a career-high 406 yards and four touchdowns in the win.

The defense, though, is a different story. Vicksburg is allowing an average of 40 points per game. Natchez hasn’t come close to scoring 40 points over that stretch.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in Natchez.