Defending 3A champs deny Vicksburg|[9/09/06]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 9, 2006

HAZLEHURST – Friday night’s game between Vicksburg and Hazlehurst had it all. Comebacks, memorable plays, big gambles, a wild finish, and even a stray dog on the field.

Unfortunately for Vicksburg, the one thing not on the list was a big upset.

Hazlehurst’s Bobby Moore scored on a 3-yard run midway through the fourth quarter – three minutes after Vicksburg had tied it – and the Indians used a pair of key fourth-down plays down the stretch to hang on for a 20-14 win.

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Hazlehurst’s Keyshon Reese rushed for 128 yards on 20 carries, while Vicksburg’s Vernon Wolfe caught six passes for 65 yards. Vicksburg’s Stanton Price completed 8 of 14 passes for 92 yards. It was the second straight six-point loss for Vicksburg, which dropped a 12-6 overtime decision to Natchez last week.

&#8220We’ve just got to learn to win the close ones,” Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said. &#8220We’re doing some great things, but we’ve got to learn that.”

The game was one of the strangest in recent memory.

At the end of the first quarter, a fumble by Hazlehurst quarterback Damein Anderson was negated because an official had inadvertently blown his whistle at the start of the play. The scoreboard clock showed only the minutes remaining, and the official apparently thought time had expired before the snap.

The teams combined for more than 200 penalty yards. Hazlehurst alone was flagged 17 times, including 11 for either false starts or offsides. At one point in the second quarter, there were five penalties called within a span of two plays.

The game was also stopped twice in the second half to shoo away a stray dog that had wandered onto the field.

&#8220I expected that down here,” Stevens said with a chuckle.

The teams themselves contributed to the goofiness, too.

Anderson scored on a 1-yard run with about three minutes left in the third quarter to put Hazlehurst ahead 14-6, but Vicksburg drove down the field on its next possession.

Two personal fouls on Hazlehurst on one play bailed the Gators out of a third-and-long situation, and eventually led to Stanton Price’s 2-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown to bring VHS within 14-12.

Another inadvertent whistle on the two-point conversion nixed a successful attempt, so Vicksburg went with an unusual tactic on the next try. Price handed off to lineman David Williams, one of the strongest players on the team, and Williams carried a pile of defenders the last two yards for the game-tying conversion.

Hazlehurst answered right back with a more conventional weapon – the deep pass.

On the Indians’ next possession, Anderson hooked up with Fredrick Fuller for a 41-yard completion to the Vicksburg 3, setting up Moore’s go-ahead touchdown with about six minutes remaining. The 2-point conversion was no good.

&#8220I was looking for somebody else at first, then I looked and he was wide open,” Anderson said of the long pass to Fuller. &#8220That’s my cousin. He’s blood. I know how fast he is and I just threw it out there for him.”

The thrills and chills weren’t over just yet.

Vernon Wolfe returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to the Hazlehurst 36, and a late hit at the end of the run pushed the Gators to the 20. They went nowhere, though, and Price was sacked by Arthur Casteal for a 15-yard loss on fourth down.