Gators emphasize strength in numbers|[8/2/06]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 2, 2006

David Williams smiled when asked if anyone has come close to his perch atop the list of strongest Vicksburg High Gators.

&#8220Cabatay tried,” he said of fellow lineman Mark Cabatay, who is the lone member of the 1,400 pound club.

Williams would be a member of that club if he hadn’t breezed through 1,400 pounds en route to the 1,500-pound club.

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Vicksburg’s football coaches track players’ strength through weightlifting. Each player has three lifts – a squat, dead-lift and bench press. Players who exceed 1,000 pounds total get their names on a board prominently displayed in the Gators’ fieldhouse.

Thirty-two members of the football team are in the 1,000-pound club. The numbers thin as the weight increases. Marlon Maxey, Jeremy Hamlin and Michael Dulaney occupy the 1,300-pound club and are in pursuit of Cabatay’s 1,400 pounds.

Williams, a hulking 6-foot, 290-pound senior and defending Class 5A powerlifting champion, set the bar that no other Gator has approached.

&#8220I could have done more,” Williams said when asked about reaching 1,500.

The emphasis on weightlifting has intensified as training camp begins for the upcoming season. Coach Alonzo Stevens has lifting sessions four times per week during the season. During summer, while some groups of players are outside involved in drills, the incessant clanging of metal weights surrounds the fieldhouse.

&#8220We brought in the Bigger-Faster-Stronger camp a few years ago and it has made all the difference,” Stevens said. &#8220This right here, this is relaxing for them,” he added about the lifting.

Cabatay, a heavily recruited 6-3, 300-pound lineman, said the emphasis on lifting will pay dividends during the season.

&#8220Most of the people on the powerlifting team are members of the ’07 senior class,” said Cabatay, also a state powerlifting champion. &#8220Winning a state championship in powerlifting will give us confidence heading into the football season.”

Finding a kicker from the soccer team.

Last season it was John Howard. This year, it appears to be Michael Cooper joining the Gators’ special teams.

Cooper, a soccer standout for the Gators, will take the graduated Howard’s place as the team’s kicker.

&#8220Howard had a great leg. When he got here, though, everyone would get out of the way because you didn’t know where the ball was going,” Stevens said with a chuckle. &#8220Cooper kicks them straight and deep.”

Howard obviously corrected his direction problems. He earned a kicking scholarship to Grambling.