Collapse shocking for VHS

Published 12:04 pm Tuesday, October 26, 2010

After Murrah’s Andre Nicholls booted the game-winning field goal that capped a furious rally, some Vicksburg players collapsed to the turf in a combination of shame and dismay.

Others wandered around in a daze, looking for answers after previously-winless Murrah outscored the Gators 24-0 in the fourth quarter to earn a 38-37 victory Friday.

“This is all the way disappointing,” senior wide receiver Adam Reed said, shaking his head in disbelief.

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It was a defeat that should’ve never happened, especially the way the offense played. Quarterback Cameron Cooksey completed 14 of 25 passes for 169 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Alvin Stamps had 123 receiving yards on just five catches, three of them for touchdowns. Kawayne Gaston was a force, rushing for 211 yards and two touchdowns on runs of 74 and 70 yards.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

At numerous points, the Gators had opportunities to stem the bleeding as they frittered away the 37-14 lead they took into the fourth quarter.

Early in the fourth, Murrah strung together a 10-play, 90-yard drive that nibbled about six minutes off the clock thanks to poor tackling. Along the way, the Mustangs converted a second-and-20 with ease as running back Greg Riley, who shredded the Gators for 155 yards and three touchdowns, broke six tackles. A few plays later, Shaheed Green hit tight end Randy Wallace for a score.

On the next Vicksburg possession, the Gators couldn’t move the ball with their backups in the game and couldn’t grind down any clock. It only got worse as punter Travis Haas was forced to retrieve a bad snap on the run and was wrestled down deep in Gator territory, setting up a Riley TD and a two-point conversion that cut the lead to 37-29 with just over four minutes to play.

On the next Vicksburg possession, despite having the starters back in, the offense was unable to move the ball again. An incomplete pass on third down stopped the clock with just over three minutes left. Cooksey bailed out the Gators with his best punt of the year, forcing the Mustangs to drive the length of the field again.

But on Murrah’s next play, two missed tackles on a simple screen pass turned a 5-yard loss into a 75-yard gain, setting up Murrah’s final touchdown that pulled it to within two with just over two minutes remaining.

“We just fell apart,” Cooksey said. “You’ve got to keep fighting. It definitely hurts, but you’ve got to keep playing.”

All that the Gators needed to do to clinch the win was recover the onsides kick, but the ball caromed through the legs of the hands team and Henry Mosly recovered it to set up the winning field goal.

“It’s as bad as I’ve ever seen it,” Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said. “Great effort, but until we learn how to put somebody away … we just can’t put people away.”