Turnovers continue to plague Vicksburg|Prep football

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 21, 2009

After helping Vicksburg High win nine games last season and establishing himself as one of the area’s best defensive backs, Harold Pickett was looking forward to a promising senior season.

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Things aren’t working out like he had hoped. In four games, Vicksburg has been blown out four times. The opposition has scored in the 40’s in all four games. The Gators’ offense and special teams have coughed up the ball an incredible 20 times while having scored just 13 points.

The lone scoring highlight in Friday night’s dismal, 48-7 homecoming loss to a depleted Lawrence County club was sophomore Stefan Demby’s 48-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the game’s final three minutes.

His jersey muddied from the torn-up and mushy Memorial Stadium field, Pickett could only speak of hopeful things.

“I’m a very humble person, I just want to see us win,” Pickett said.

Last season, as the Gators’ starting safety, he led the team with three interceptions and also had two fumble recoveries. Interest from college programs started to fill his mailbox over the summer.

“Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Arkansas, Southeast Missouri, UAB and one from UCLA,” Pickett said of his letters. “A lot of the schools like that I can play both corner and free safety. This year, I was moved to corner, so they can now see how I well play there.”

Pickett wants to follow in the tradition of great Vicksburg High cornerbacks like David Heard, who started for three straight seasons at Mississippi State. To get there, though, the Gators have to improve and Pickett feels he knows where it must begin.

“First off, we have to be more disciplined,” Pickett said. “Then, we have to learn our plays. We’ve got guys who don’t know the plays. If we can learn those plays, we’d be a better team on offense. We also have to stop trying to play this game as individuals. We have to play as a team.”

Veteran Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens can feel Pickett’s pain.

“Tonight was the first time we had Pickett back on the field since Ocean Springs and we need him,” said Stevens. Pickett, one of only three senior Gators start back from last year, hurt his quad in the Ocean Springs game and had to sit out the last two weeks. He did manage to get an interception against the Greyhounds to give him four over 13 games.

Vicksburg’s offense and kick return units, however, have given it up 20 times and Stevens said the mistakes are coming not from his sophomores but from his experienced players.

“It’s the seniors who are making the mistakes. Two of the three fumbles tonight were by seniors. The kickoff mistakes last week were two seniors. It’s a mental thing,” Stevens said.

The leadership void from seeing 32 seniors leave the program last year through graduation has been a big factor, but none of this year’s seniors have been able to step up. Donta Vaughn, the lone returning starter on the offensive line, has been suspended for the last three weeks and may not be back. That leaves Pickett and Raphael Harris as the lone returning starters left.

“We just have to find something we can do well on offense. Our young kids have looked pretty good at times and we may just have to keep playing more and more of them,” Stevens said.


Contact Jeff Byrd at jbyrd@vicksburgpost.com