Gators get 5-time defending state champs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 28, 2008

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.

A chance to dethrone the king. To make history. To prove themselves against the best.

On Friday night, the Vicksburg Gators get their chance. They’ll face the mighty South Panola Tigers — they of the 75-game winning streak, five straight Class 5A championships, and national ranking — at home, in Memorial Stadium, in the Red Carpet Bowl.

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“It’s our last year, senior year. Everybody wants a shot at South Panola and we’ve got ours,” Vicksburg tight end Kurt Cooksey said. “If you do break the record, this is what you talk about for the rest of your life.”

The Gators haven’t had to look far for a daily reminder of South Panola’s dominance. A quick glance at their jersey — or the guy next to them, or the one next to him — will put it front and center.

All through training camp, every player on Vicksburg’s roster has been wearing the No. 76 on their jersey. After four weeks of seeing it, VHS quarterback Les Lemons said he’s had enough.

“We’re ready to get the 76 off our chest,” Lemons said.

Vicksburg has already earned a place in The Streak. It was victim No. 42.

In the first round of the 2005 Class 5A playoffs, the Gators made the long trek to Batesville to face defensive group to stay close in nearly every game.

All-county selections R.W. Comans and Bennie Peoples have graduated, though, allowing others to step in on defense.

Following Friday night’s contest against Clarksdale, the Vikings will return to Memorial Stadium on Sept. 5 to battle Vicksburg High. Because the two schools are in different classifications, the game was changed last year from the final game of the season to the second game of the year. Vicksburg won last year’s game, 7-0.

Before the Gators, though, WC must contend with the Wildcats. Clarksdale has won state championships in 1997, 1998 and 2001. They have finished runner-up twice.