VHS wary of Natchez

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 10, 2004

[9/10/04]Marcus Harris doesn’t remember the postgame celebration from last year’s game against Natchez. He doesn’t remember a lot of the details from the game itself, either.

What he and most of the other Vicksburg High Gators do recall is the feeling of humiliation that followed.

“It didn’t dawn on me that they beat us until a day later, when people were saying how sorry we were,” said Harris, a senior cornerback for Vicksburg. “We were a playoff team that got beat by a team that only won one game.”

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Indeed, that 14-12 victory broke a 13-game losing streak and was the only win for Natchez in 2003. In fact, it was one of only a handful that the Bulldogs even kept close. After holding three of its first four opponents to 14 points, Natchez allowed at least 40 points in six of its last seven games.

Vicksburg went on to reach the Class 5A playoffs, losing in the first round, but was haunted by the loss to Natchez all season. Now, 363 days later, the Gators have their shot at payback when Natchez travels up Highway 61 tonight.

“We’ve got revenge on our mind,” Harris said. “They embarrassed us last year.”

Vicksburg has done some humbling of its own recently. The unheralded Gators knocked off then-No. 4 Brookhaven at home last Friday and come into tonight’s game on an emotional high.

The danger of a letdown is there, but Vicksburg seems to have learned its lesson from last season. The week before the loss to Natchez, the Gators had beaten Brookhaven in triple overtime.

During last week’s postgame speech, VHS coaches reminded their players of that fact. And within 30 minutes of the thrilling overtime victory against the Panthers, several VHS players had already started talking about exacting their revenge on Natchez.

“We’ve been telling them to be prepared to play,” Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said. “You’ve got no teams that can’t beat you on a given night. We’re taking it as the next opportunity, and we know we have to play hard for 48 minutes.”

Although Natchez has won just once since beating Vicksburg a 39-38 win over Port Gibson in this year’s season-opener the Bulldogs just might be primed for another upset.

Natchez is averaging over 28 points per game so far, uses a West Coast passing attack that spreads the field, and will be facing a Gator offense that has been anemic at best in its first two games.

Vicksburg has scored three offensive touchdowns, including one on a short 10-yard drive in overtime against Brookhaven.

There’s also the defense, which has suffocated two quality opponents and kept the Gators in both games. Vicksburg’s defense allowed one solid scoring drive in a 20-8 loss to Gulfport, and fended off nine Brookhaven drives into their territory. They’ll be under more pressure this week, against an offense capable of breaking big plays on a moment’s notice.

“We have to tackle and really cover our assignments,” Stevens said. “Defensively, we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. Those guys are creating turnovers and making it hard to drive the ball on them.”