Gators in need of a win against Forest Hill

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 8, 2004

Vicksburg defenders Marcus Harris, right and Harold Knight, left, tackle Clinton’s Maurice Woods in last week’s 13-7 loss. (Meredith SpencerThe Vicksburg Post)

[10/8/04]The biggest game of the year for Vicksburg High isn’t the season-ending showdown with archrival Warren Central.

It’s not the matchup with Region 2-5A power Madison Central in two weeks.

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The Gators’ biggest game is tonight at 7:30, when they host Forest Hill with their playoff lives on the line. Vicksburg has stumbled to an 0-2 start in region play. A third loss, with only four games remaining, would likely knock it out of playoff contention.

“We’ve got to win. We’ve taken all the slack out of the chain that we can,” VHS coach Alonzo Stevens said. “We’ve put ourselves in a must-win situation from here on out, and we’ve got to answer the bell.”

Despite their record, the Gators (2-4) have played well. The defense has allowed just 88 points this season, and 19 in the two region losses to Clinton and Grenada.

The problem has been a shaky offense that has struggled to put points on the board. VHS has been held to 10 points or less in four of its six games this season. The Gators scored 52 in a blowout win over Natchez, which was five more points than they have scored in all of their other games combined.

The offense finally got untracked last week against Clinton. Vicksburg totaled 333 yards and made five trips inside the red zone, but still managed only one touchdown in a 13-7 loss. The Gators turned it over on downs twice and had two blocked field goals.

“We were starting to change up the offense a little bit,” said VHS quarterback Eugene Morgan, who threw for 203 yards and ran for 100 more against Clinton. “I’m in the shotgun more, and the offensive line is learning.”

The struggles of the offense have put pressure on the Gators’ defense to keep them in games. So far, they’ve risen to the task admirably. The Gators have held opponents under 20 points four times and forced 14 turnovers.

“The defense is responding to everything we’re doing, and they want it like that. They’ve got our backs,” Stevens said.

It will take a total team effort for the Gators to pull out of their funk, however. Vicksburg has games remaining against average squads from Greenville and Murrah in addition to Forest Hill. All are winnable.

Matchups with Madison Central and Warren Central will prove much tougher.

“We’re trying to put anything together. All week we’ve been focusing on (Forest Hill) because we feel like we can go 5-0 and get a spot in the playoffs,” Morgan said. “We’ve still got a tough schedule ahead, but that’s why this game is important. We win this game, we can go 5-0.”