VHS football catches break in division alignment|[12/04/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 4, 2006

After spending two years in one of the most competitive football regions around, the Vicksburg Gators are finally catching a break.

The basketball teams did not.

Vicksburg, which dropped to Class 4A in the latest realignment by the Mississippi High School Activities Association, was placed in Region 3-4A when the new division assignments, which includes only one football team, Yazoo City, that won more than six games last season.

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The same programs that are lackluster in football will make life tough for VHS’ basketball teams, though. Vicksburg’s new rivals include Lanier, Canton, Callaway, Yazoo City and Yazoo County.

Lanier is the defending Class 4A boys’ champion and Yazoo County won the 3A title last season under Archie Carlyle, who is now at Yazoo City. Callaway and Canton also traditionally have solid programs, as do the Yazoo County girls.

&#8220I feel like if you can get out of that district, you have a great shot to get to the Coliseum,” Vicksburg boys basketball coach Dellie C. Robinson said. &#8220No question, top to bottom that district is probably one of the toughest in the state, if not the toughest.”

While the competition will be rough, Robinson said the travel will not be. One of the other alignment proposals had Vicksburg in a southern division with schools like McComb and Brookhaven. This one is much closer, he said.

&#8220The only good thing about it is we’ll be home at 10:30 or 11 o’clock every night,” Robinson said. &#8220And we’ll have some good crowds. Lanier and Canton bring a lot of folks.”

Warren Central stayed in Class 5A, where the basketball division is smaller but just as tough. WC will join strong teams from Clinton, Greenville-Weston and Provine in Division 4-5A. All four schools have strong boys and girls basketball programs, making it one of the toughest divisions in the state.

&#8220Greenville has a lot of athletes and we know that Provine and Clinton are always going to be good. There is no doubt that this is a loaded girls division,” WC girls basketball coach Donny Fuller said.

Vicksburg’s soccer teams will also have it rough. Pearl’s boys and Ridgeland’s girls teams, both in Division 3-4A next season, have each won the last two Class 4A state titles.

&#8220Callaway, Pearl and Ridgeland are pretty good,” VHS boys soccer coach Jason Bennett said. &#8220I think 5A is stronger all around, but there’s some good 4A teams.”

While the basketball and soccer schedules will be a nightmarish gauntlet for the Gators, some sports will have it much easier.

In baseball, only Ridgeland advanced out of the first round of the playoffs last season. Pearl traditionally has a solid program, but with a number of starters returning on a team that expected to compete for a Class 5A championship, Vicksburg vaults to the top of the Division 3-4A class.

Football also catches a break. Yazoo City finished 11-1 this season, with the only loss to Clarksdale in the Class 4A North State championship game. No other team in the division made it out of the first round of the playoffs, though.

Vicksburg hasn’t played any of its new region rivals recently – the last meeting against any of them was a 12-9 win over Callaway in 2002 – but it has seen them in various passing leagues and camps during the summer. VHS coach Alonzo Stevens said that, despite the records of the other teams in Region 3-4A, all of the teams have enough talent to be competitive.

&#8220We’re familiar with their programs and know they have good programs and good athletes,” Stevens said. &#8220It’s going to help us a lot. Our kids know what kind of athletes are on these teams.”

The only difference in Warren Central’s football region is Grenada, which took Vicksburg’s spot.

St. Aloysius will see plenty of familiar faces in its new region. The Flashes switch from Region 3-1A back to Region 4-1A, which they were in for the 2003 and ‘04 seasons.

The new Region 4-1A is a mix of teams St. Al has played against in both divisions, including archrival Cathedral, Puckett, Stringer, West Lincoln and Dexter.