Come Saturday, teacher will be with ‘her boys’

Published 12:01 pm Thursday, March 3, 2011

JACKSON — Linda Couch cares little for the game of basketball. But talk about the Vicksburg Gators basketball team and her eyes light up.

“Those are my boys,” said Couch, a Pattison native, 25-year resident of Vicksburg and, to put it mildly, fanatic VHS Gators fan. “I don’t watch college games on TV, I just like watching my boys.”

A Vicksburg High study hall teacher for the past 15 years, Couch has attended almost every home and road game Vicksburg High has played during that span. This year she missed one because of ice in Yazoo City, but there was no missing Wednesday’s state tournament game at the Mississippi Coliseum. She arrived almost three hours before tipoff.

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“I called and got a substitute and took the day off,” said Couch, who saw her team defeat Pascagoula High School 62-51 and advance to Saturday’s state championship game against Meridian. “I asked for the day off two weeks ago.”

On Wednesday, she; her husband of 37 years, Chester; her best friend, Paula Jones; and the Couches daughter, Amanda, a 2003 VHS graduate, set out early so they could make sure to get seats at center court.

“I started going a few weeks ago, and they haven’t lost yet,” Jones said. “I figured I had to go to this one or they might lose.”

The Couches were among about 1,400 green-clad Gators — from students on one of the three fan buses to alumni and everyone in between.

“I’m here to hopefully see them win a championship,” Freddy L. Amos, 64, a Temple High graduate, said before tipoff. “Every year they come here, I watch them play. I hope they can win this one. I want to come back Saturday and see them win that gold ball.”

Vicksburg won the public school championship in 1980 and 2003. The Gators have advanced to the Mississippi Coliseum twice since then, but were eliminated both times.

Vicksburg High senior Millan Nasif and six of his closest friends were among a strong student contingent — and easily recognizable. Nasif, a football player, came dressed as a white O painted on a green background. His six partners filled in the body-painted word “GATORS!” on their chests.

“We put all this on in the parking lot,” said Nasif, who added he and his friends were not worried about being seen on TV with Gators misspelled. “School spirit,” said Nasif, who was joined by Kaleb Jones, Perry Wolfe, Gunnar Daquilla, Chucky Hayden, Dakotah Daffron and Daniel Sluis, who came up with the paint idea.

They plan to be painted again on Saturday night for the championship game against Meridian. It’s the last event in a busy day in and around Vicksburg with Saturday morning’s Run Thru History and the downtown Mardi Gras Parade rolling at 4 — just about the same time Couch plans to be waiting outside the Coliseum.

“Parade?” Couch asked. “There’s a parade? I will be right here … with my boys.”