VHS defensive lineman led Warren County in sacks|[12/17/06]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dekores Branch was hoping he could avoid the same academic purgatory that has befallen some of the more recent Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year honorees.

Branch breathed a huge sigh of relief last week when he got back his American College Test. He had passed with a 22 and now the 2006 Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year can look for the best college fit.

&#8220I knew it was coming. And I was hoping I could get that ACT out of the way,” Branch said. &#8220When I got the score, it was like, ‘yes, I qualify. I made a 22.’”.

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By passing the ACT and with a sufficient grade point average, Branch avoids the pitfalls that left the Post’s 2004 defensive honoree in Chico Hunter and 2005 winner Willis McGowan who sat out this season without playing a down while working on getting their grades in order.

For Branch, a 6-3, 220-pound defensive end, the score has opened a wave of possibilities.

&#8220The last few days, they were rolling in here. They said they like my size and that I’m a worker. It’s something that can take me somewhere,” Branch said.

The Gator senior was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise young and inconsistent defense. He led Warren County with 10 1/2 sacks and finished the year ranked fourth in total tackles with 102, including six for losses. He was also credited with seven quarterback hurries.

&#8220Dekores took his game to another level this season,” VHS coach Alonzo Stevens said. &#8220Now people from the SEC to the SWAC are looking at him. He’s 6-3 and a hard worker and that effort led him to being named our permament team captain halfway through the season.

&#8220He had a great year playing both end and outside linebacker and he runs real well.”

For Branch, a key turning point for him was an early season game with defending Class 3A champ Hazlehurst.

&#8220Jazzman Guy from Hazlehurst is a Dandy Dozen but he only had four tackles against us, while I had 13 tackles against them. I knew I could play at a higher level,” Branch said.

Guy is considered the state’s top-rated defensive end by several recruiting newsletters.

And the college scouts think so as well. Alcorn State’s Dr. Johnny Thomas came by for a visit to the Swamp last week. Mississippi State has gotten in contact. Southern University out of Baton Rouge is very interested, as is Mississippi Valley, Jackson State and Hinds.

&#8220I just told momma, just make a list of who calls,” Branch said. &#8220They’ve talked about me as both an end and as outside linebacker. I knew I had the skills for both.

&#8220I felt like I was one of the defensive ends in the state.”

Despite a 4-7 season, Branch felt the year was rewarding and he’s now ready for the next step.

&#8220I learned a lot this year,” he said. &#8220Being together with this group of seniors as my teammates for the last four years has been pretty good. I’ve enjoyed it.”