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VHS hosts Madison Central in crucial region showdown

Vicksburg running back Chavous McWhorters (34) runs from Forest Hill defensive back Derrius White (8) in a game on Oct. 8. (Meredith SpencerThe Vicksburg Post)

[10/22/04]Madison Central is hoping this isn’t deja vu in Warren County.

Two weeks ago, the Jaguars lost their first region game at Warren Central, 22-14. Tonight, Vicksburg High hosts Madison Central for homecoming in a crucial Region 2-5A matchup.

The Jaguars (6-2, 3-1) enter as the region’s No. 2 seed, but that could change with a loss to the Gators (4-4, 2-2).

“We haven’t had much luck in Warren County this year,” MC coach Ted Taylor said with a laugh. “We’re just going to come over there and play hard, and hopefully we’ll come out of there with a victory. It’s going to be tough.”

Vicksburg is trying to fight its way back into the playoff picture, and a win over Madison would put the Gators in as the fourth seed with two games remaining.

“We’ve gotten ourselves to where its championship-caliber ball every week if you want to try to control a little bit of your destiny,” VHS coach Alonzo Stevens said. “We’re trying to control our own instead of figuring out some math or rooting for somebody else.”

Despite the Jaguars’ good position in the standings, Taylor realizes a loss to Vicksburg could put his team on the outside looking in with two games left.

“We can still not make it,” Taylor said. “We were talking about getting home-field advantage in the playoffs, well, we might be at home. We might be at home in our living rooms.”

Stevens’ main concern is trying to keep Vicksburg’s players away from the distractions of homecoming, and so far everything seems to be working.

“I’m more worried about the game than homecoming,” VHS linebacker Harold Knight said. “I’m not even going to the homecoming dance, I want to win.”

Stevens said in the past homecoming week has been a problem, but this year’s team has been focused on the game.

“This group has been a special group. They take care of it,” he said. “We’ve had a good week of practice. We’re not having distractions like, I’m going to get a tuxedo, I can’t be here today.’ or I have to go get my hair cut.’ These guys have been right on task.”

Madison isn’t exactly the kind of easy opponent schools usually schedule for homecoming, but the Gators aren’t concerned.

“I told the kids the other day, Where would you rather be, not homecoming and going to Madison or homecoming and them coming here?'” Stevens said. “You’ve got to play them, they’re on the schedule. I’d rather play them in the Swamp.”

Madison Central’s wing-T offense features running back Jonathan “Barlow” Vance (774 rushing yards and nine touchdowns) and quarterback Tim Buckley (939 passing yards and seven TDs).

“They like to try to run behind their guards a lot. (Vance) runs hard and we just have to try to stop him,” Knight said.

Stevens said he’s confident in his defense based on the teams the Gators have played so far. Vicksburg has given No. 8 Brookhaven its only loss and dropped close games to No. 4 Gulfport and No. 11 South Pike.

“Madison’s offense looks good, their defense looks good. They’re a good football team,” Stevens said. “If we hadn’t played the schedule that we’ve played, it might bring more pressure on these guys.”

Opposing the Jaguars’ offense will be Vicksburg’s stingy defense, which is giving up 12 points per game. Last week, the Gators recorded their first shutout against Greenville, and they have allowed only 26 points in their last four games.

Against Forest Hill and Greenville, the Gators’ offense has registered back-to-back 20-point performances for the first time this season, but they came against teams that have just two wins between them.

“The good thing about these guys is they’re improving every week,” Stevens said. “Every week the level of play keeps getting better, and we still haven’t played our best ball game yet.”