New Hope awaits VHS in the second round

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2008

Contact Jeff Byrd at

Vicksburg fans who may have trekked up to Oxford last February to see the Gators battle New Hope for the North State 4A basketball championship may remember Ryan Hollivay.

He was the backup center who body-checked Jonathan Phelps as he made a drive to the basket. Phelps, who averaged 25 points a game as an All-State guard, wrenched his knee and was done for the playoffs. New Hope went on to win the North State title and a week later, claimed its first state championship in basketball.

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Tonight, Hollivay, all 6-foot-6, 330 pounds of him, will be lined up at left tackle as the Trojans (7-4) host the Gators (9-2) in a second-round, Class 4A football playoff game at Trojan Field. Hollivay is the biggest part of a massive line that New Hope has rode into the 4A playoffs. That line enabled the Trojans to get a first-round win last week at Cleveland, 27-8.

“They are big. (No.) 72 (Hollivay) is the biggest. No. 74 (Jonathan Guerry), though, is the one that has committed to Southern Miss,” Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said.

One Cleveland scribe said New Hope used a conservative game-plan, running 80 percent of the time behind the combination of Hollivay and Guerry. Sophomore tailback Terrance Dentry ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns. The biggest run was an 80-yard score that put Cleveland in a hole it couldn’t recover from.

“Greg (Robinson) said they made too many mistakes. He felt he had a good plan, but they dropped too many passes,” Stevens said of his conversation with the Cleveland coach, who played at Vicksburg High before finishing up his prep career at Porters Chapel Academy.

New Hope got a strong game from its defensive front to keep Cleveland quarterback James Brown in check. The Trojans’ David Johnson had four sacks and Pierre Hill had two as Cleveland was limited to just a fourth quarter touchdown.

“We played well, we played real well,” New Hope coach Michael Bradley told the Bolivar Commercial. “I was proud of my kids. They played hard. We had a good game plan and executed.”

New Hope had shut out Caledonia and Houston in its last two regular season games heading into the playoffs.

New Hope may try the same plan against the Gators, who rushed for 378 yards to beat Pontotoc 30-21 in a first-round game at Memorial Stadium last week. Four different Gator backs scored touchdowns, but it was quarterback Les Lemons, who had the most yardage with 139 on 17 carries.

Lemons was ineffective in the passing game, suffering a pair of interceptions, but Stevens says those problems were corrected.

Lemons enters the New Hope game with a near-perfect balance of rushing and passing. He has 788 yards rushing and six scores while completing 63 of 133 attempts for 789 yards and six scores.

The Gators should get Jeremy Hamlin back after he missed nearly all of the Pontotoc game with an ankle sprain.