Role reversal for South Pike, Vicksburg this time

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

[9/17/04]When Vicksburg High coach Alonzo Stevens walked off the field after his team’s thorough beating at the hands of South Pike last season, he was talking about what a great effort his team had in the second half.

No matter his team trailed 27-7 at halftime, were out of the game from the start and ended losing by 49-20. Stevens saw a fire in his team’s eyes.

“I saw a gleam in the eye,” he said after the game.

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The Gators, at that time, were 1-3 and heading into a brutal Region 2-5A schedule.

Six wins later, Vicksburg completed a second-place region finish and hosted a playoff game.

Now, one year later, South Pike carries the state’s No. 8 ranking, as well as an emotional victory over Warren Central into their contest tonight in Magnolia. Last season, South Pike also had beaten Warren Central and entered the game as the seventh-ranked team in the state.

And like he has in the past, Stevens is expecting a dogfight.

“You have to be ready for a team like South Pike,” Stevens said. “They are a very dangerous ballclub.”

The Eagles, as usual, are small and fast. They mix a stout running game with the passing of Kelsey Island. Island completed 14 of 26 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown in the win over Warren Central. Island completed a pair of passes to Vincent Wheatley, one of the Eagles’ most dangerous threats, for 55 yards as the Eagles jumped out to a 12-0 lead over Warren Central.

“They like to get on you quick,” Stevens said.

South Pike coach Randall Huffman was unavailable for comment. The Pike County schools closed on Thursday due to Hurricane Ivan and there was talk of moving the game to Vicksburg instead. But the Gators will travel the near 230-mile round trip to Magnolia riding a streak of their own.

After falling 20-8 against Gulfport in the season opener, the Gators have beaten then-No. 4 Brookhaven in overtime, and crushed Natchez a week ago.

“The defense is playing really well,” Stevens said. “I think the defense allowed eight points against Gulfport, and six against Natchez and Brookhaven. The offense is coming around each week.

“That’s what we have been preaching: getting better each week. We work on a lot of things and try to improve from one week to the next.”

Cordarryl Gleese leads the Gators’ offense with 193 yards on 30 carries and two touchdowns.

“I’ve had the best time of my life so far this season,” Stevens said. “These guys are special. They are not as talented as teams some years, but you can’t beat their work.

“This team works hard every day. Every day they try to get better.”