Gators ousted from 4A playoffs|[11/10/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 10, 2007

WEST POINT — Vicksburg High’s season ended Friday night the way it went for the better part of the last six weeks — so close, yet so very far away.

West Point turned three special teams blunders by the Gators into three first-half touchdowns, then withstood a late VHS comeback to claim a 24-14 win in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. The Green Wave (10-1) won its 10th straight game and advanced to play Oxford at home next Friday night. Vicksburg (6-5) lost its third straight to end the season, by a total of 18 points. Vicksburg’s five losses were by a total of 37 points, and none were by more than 11.

“It’s extremely disappointing. We had a great team, a great group of seniors, and we just lost focus I guess,” said VHS senior quarterback Stanton Price, who went 7-for-14 for 122 yards and a touchdown. He finished his career with 4,144 yards passing, second on the all-time Warren County list to former VHS great Ernest Moore’s 4,336. “Our defense played well every game. Just turnovers here and there, and getting started too late. Just putting ourselves in holes we shouldn’t have been in in the first place.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Just like Friday night.

On the opening possession of the game, West Point held the Gators to a three-and-out. The punt snap came in low to Ryan Ferrington, though, and he wasn’t able to corral it before the pressure was on him. Vicksburg recovered at its own 1-yard line, and two plays later Jeremy Cannon ran it in for a quick 7-0 lead.

Later in the first quarter, the Gators were pinned at their 1 again and the Green Wave forced a punt. This time, they tried a rugby kick with wide receiver Les Lemons, but Damion Robinson blocked it and fell on it all in one motion for another touchdown.

In the second quarter, Ferrington again couldn’t handle a low punt snap and was dropped for an 11-yard loss as he tried to run with it. West Point took over at the VHS 29, and Cannon scored on an 8-yard run three plays later to make it 21-0.

“One was a bad snap and one was my fault,” Ferrington said of the kicking game’s woes. “Just jitters, I guess. It happened last week, too.”

Cannon’s second touchdown capped a dismal first half for the Gators. They had no first downs and minus-29 yards of total offense. Seventeen of their first 25 snaps took place inside their own 25-yard line, and the only time they crossed midfield in the first 2 1/2 quarters was on a 50-yard kickoff return by Marlon Maxey — which ended in a fumble that was recovered by West Point.

And yet, somehow, the game was relatively even. West Point only had 110 yards of offense in the first half — 253 in the game — and only managed two sustained drives all night. The first was a five-minute march that ended with the first-half horn, and the second was a six-minute drive that ended with a 24-yard field goal by Phillip Dimino to make it 24-0 with 1:44 left in the third quarter.

“The defense played great. They kept us in it and gave us an opportunity at the end,” Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said.

Vicksburg made a game of it in the fourth quarter. Carlos Williams scooped up a blocked punt and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to put the Gators on the board with 9:47 left. The extra point was blocked, but on the next play from scrimmage Cannon was slung down in the end zone for a safety — and a 20-yard loss — to cut it to 24-8. And with about four minutes left, Les Lemons turned a quick slant pass from Price into an 80-yard touchdown to make it 24-14.

That was where the Gators’ magic ran out.

Price was flushed from the pocket and, rolling to his right, the left-hander was unable to flip the 2-point conversion pass to a wide-open Jeremy Hamlin. Then, showing faith in his defense and hoping for a quick three-and-out, Stevens opted to kick deep on the ensuing kickoff.

The Gators never saw the ball again.

West Point quarterback Cortney Scott picked up two first downs, and the Gators jumped offsides on fourth and short with 25 seconds left as they tried to prevent a quarterback sneak.

Scott, who ran for 101 yards on 22 carries on the night, then took a knee to run off the final seconds.

“We had a good first three quarters,” West Point quarterback Chris Chambless said. “If we had played like we did in the fourth quarter, they’d have whupped us pretty good.”