Gators get shot at mighty Madison Central|Prep football

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 16, 2009

In Week 7 against Northwest Rankin, the Vicksburg offense finally got the passing game in gear.

In Week 8, the Gators finally found a running game.

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Madison Central at Vicksburg

Is this the week Vicksburg finally puts it all together? Probably not, with top-ranked Madison Central coming to town.

“They’re probably as good as anybody we’ve played, except in every aspect,” Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said. “Other teams had some things they weren’t good at. These guys have got it all.”

It doesn’t help matters that Vicksburg has endured a nightmarish short week thanks to a rain-delayed 28-14 loss to Greenville-Weston. Playing on Monday night gave the Gators (0-7, 0-3 Region 2-6A) precious little time to game plan for the No. 14 team in the latest USA Today prep football rankings.

“You’ve got 24 hours to get it (the loss to Greenville) out of you and 72 hours to get ready for the best team in our district,” Stevens said. “That’s going to tell a lot about what this team will be like next year. I think they’re going to show up and play.”

The Jaguars (7-0, 3-0) bring the region’s most potent defense and best offense to Memorial Stadium tonight. Plus Madison Central’s talented senior class has lost just one region game since they grabbed spots in the starting lineup in their sophomore season.

The key for Madison Central’s success on defense is their burly defensive line which averages 278 pounds per man.

“They’re just a really talented group and they play hard with a lot of passion,” Madison Central coach Bobby Hall said. “Every night, we go out there, people have trouble blocking them.”

The rest of the Madison Central defense is stout as well. They have yielded just 60 points this season in seven games.

Offensively, the Jaguars are explosive. They average a region-best 34.7 points per game and have playmakers up and down the depth chart. Peyton Johnson was once known as a smooth operator in the option game, but has improved his passing and become one of the top quarterbacks in the state.

“He can beat you with his feet or with his arm,” Hall said. “He’s got a really good supporting cast around him, but he’s a really good football player.”

Johnson has two of the state’s top targets — heavily-recruited junior wide receiver Tobias Singleton and tight end Will Bryan — plus an excellent stable of running backs.

Blocking for all of these weapons is one of the state’s better offensive lines. When asked about the Jaguars’ primary strength, Stevens had a quick reply.

“Their offensive line and defensive line,” Stevens said. “They are awesome up front.”

After quarterback Cameron Cooksey had a breakout performance in the loss to Northwest Rankin, it was the running game’s to get going for Vicksburg thanks to sloppy field conditions in Greenville that negated the passing game.

The Gators racked up 158 yards rushing as a team against the Hornets after tallying just 268 yards total in its first six games. After scoring just two rushing touchdowns in six games, Vicksburg got two from Kawayne Gaston against the Hornets.

Either way, Stevens knows the Gators have to find some way to move the ball against a dominant defense and keep an explosive Madison Central offense off the field.

“We’ve got to find something we can go to,” Stevens said. “We’ve got to find somebody who can put us on his shoulders and carry us.”

Sports reporter Ernest Bowker contributed to this story.

Contact Steve Wilson at