Vikings, Gators ready for Region play|[9/29/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

With the additions of Northwest Rankin and Provine, both Warren Central and Vicksburg faced one of the more challenging regions in the state.

On Friday, the Vikings and Gators begin Region 2-5A play by taking on the two newcomers. Vicksburg (3-1) will host Provine (2-1) at Memorial Stadium, while Warren Central (2-2) travels to face undefeated and seventh-ranked Northwest Rankin (4-0).

VHS coach Alonzo Stevens says his Gators have an air of confidence heading into region play after beating Southaven 30-6 last week on the road.

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“It’s a tough region, but we feel we can play with anybody if we’re mentally focused,” Stevens said. “We’re steadily getting better and I think we’ve got a good little football team when we’re focused and can execute.”

On the other hand, Warren Central is reeling after consecutive 31-point losses, including last week’s 37-6 setback to Meridian at Viking Stadium. The week before, WC was shutout by South Pike.

“We’ve got to get better on offense and we’ve got to get better on defense,” said WC coach Curtis Brewer after the Meridian loss. “We can’t keep having mental lapses like blowing coverages and missing blocking assignments.”

Stevens says the Gators’ best football is in front of them.

“The best thing is we haven’t peaked, our best football has yet to come,” he said. “Physically, we’re in great shape.”

The Gators have had problems moving the ball consistently and that includes the team’s lone loss, a 30-14 decision to a top 3A team in Hazlehurst.

“A lot of teams are putting eight or nine men in the box and we’ve got to find a way to back them off,” Stevens said. “Then another thing has been the flow of the game. At Natchez, we were just trying to hold on after giving up a big lead. Against Hazlehurst, they just jumped on us quick. Their speed created problems for us but we won’t face another team with that kind of speed.”

Through four games, the Gators are averaging 224 yards a game. Running backs Chavous McWhorter and Tyler Wells have combined for 535 yards rushing. Sophomore quarterback Stanton Price has thrown for another 280. Getting more out of the passing game will be a key.

“Our young quarterback (Price) now has four games under his belt. We feel like we can now do some things to back those guys out of the box,” Stevens said.

For the Vikings, getting healthy would be nice. The absence of last year’s Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year, free safety Chico Hunter, has hurt. Hunter went down with a knee injury in a 22-11 Warren Central win over Grenada on Sept. 9.

“Chico has begun re-habbing and could be back in two weeks,” Brewer said last week in reference to the Oct. 7 game against Greenville.

With Hunter out, the Vikings have been hit for four touchdown passes, including three on long seam routes by South Pike and Meridian.

The team’s top running back, Carleton Davis, has been ill and did not play against Meridian until the fourth quarter. The Vikings miss his breakaway speed. They were also without split end Cornell Miles.

“Our split end cuts his hand the Thursday before the Meridian game, so yeah, we need to get some guys back,” Brewer said. “For the last two weeks we’ve been tested pretty hard. But for the remainder of the year, it’s not what other teams try to do, but what Warren Central does.”