Gators knock off Vikings
Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 31, 2009
Their season-long slide finally and mercifully over, the Vicksburg Gators celebrated by sliding some more.
Kawayne Gaston scored on a 1-yard run in the second overtime Friday night, giving Vicksburg a 13-7 victory over archrival Warren Central.
Click here for more photos of the VHS-WC game
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It was the first win of the season for VHS (1-9), ending a long losing streak that has made this one of the worst seasons in the program’s history. Only three times has VHS or one of its predecessors gone winless for an entire season, the last in 1952. Thanks to Friday’s spirited effort, this group of Gators won’t join that bunch.
“I feel like the Steelers when they won the Super Bowl. I don’t know if I’m even going to go home tonight,” said an elated Gaston, who carried the ball 25 times for 102 yards and the one touchdown. “We really wanted to win every game, but this game we knew we had to have.”
After Gaston scored, the Gators rushed from the sideline and dove en masse through the mud of Viking Stadium. It’s the third consecutive time they’ve gotten to celebrate on WC’s turf, and the third win in a row overall in the series. All three games have been decided by one touchdown.
For Warren Central, this is the one that may have hurt the most.
Not only did the Vikings allow VHS to stop its losing streak, they missed two chances to win in overtime and damaged their own odds of ending a three-year playoff drought. WC must now beat Grenada at home next week to guarantee its first playoff berth since 2005.
After Friday’s loss, players from both sides got into a shouting match at midfield. Once they were separated, the bickering continued amongst the Vikings themselves.
“It’s a big deal for our team and our seniors. But we’ve got to get over it if we want to play on,” WC coach Curtis Brewer said. “We can’t change it. There’s nothing you can do. It’s in the book.”
Heavy downpours that pelted Warren County for most of the day Friday turned the field into a mud pit and kept many fans away. Only a few hundred people braved the steady rain to watch a game that typically draws several thousand. The ones that stayed home missed one of the most memorable finishes in the series’ 29-year history.
A 9-yard run by WC’s Tim Jones and a 16-yard pass from Vicksburg quarterback Cameron Cooksey to Alventray Tarleton, both in the second quarter, were all either offense could muster in regulation. The mud and an emphasis on protecting a wet football prevented either coaching staff from taking a lot of chances — caution that was backed by the nine combined fumbles in the game.
It went into overtime tied at 7-7. After Vicksburg fumbled on the opening possession, WC ran the ball twice and lined up for a 25-yard field goal attempt by Devon Bell. The normally reliable kicker pushed his attempt wide right, and the game continued. WC got the ball back to start the second overtime, but Jones was stuffed on a fourth-and-goal from the 3.
“We were the first ones on the field. You’ve got to decide whether you can hold them. The odds tell you to take the three points. It turned out we would have had to have seven to win anyway,” Brewer said.
Vicksburg nearly sent the game into the third overtime when Cooksey fumbled the snap on the first play. But the quarterback recovered, then handed off to Gaston on a sweep to the right side on second down. Gaston hit the corner and dove for the pylon, landing out of bounds just short of the goal line. On the next play he ran up the middle and into the end zone for the winning score, setting off the wild celebration.
“It’s been a tough season. They booed us and did things to us,” Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said. “These guys always looked within each other and showed class. We just kept believing and working. I’m just elated.”
Contact Ernest Bowker at email@example.com