Defense shows progress Vicksburg defenders put together solid showing at Murrah

Published 11:47 am Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vicksburg High’s defense has gotten a lot of unkind comparisons the past two seasons.

Swiss cheese. Tissue paper. Matadors.

Last Friday against Murrah, it wasn’t quite as strong as steel, but definitely checked in somewhere around a high-grade aluminum.

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With the Gators’ high-powered offense struggling for most of the night, it was the much-maligned defense that kept the team in the game. It held Murrah to 283 yards, a third of which came on two big plays in the first quarter. Vicksburg also stopped two long drives on fourth down. Of the four touchdowns it gave up, three were on short fields set up by a long kick return and the overtime rules that gave Murrah the ball at the 10-yard line.

“The defense played excellent,” Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said. “They were where they were supposed to be all night long. That’s what we’ve been hollering all year, is to hold on, hold on and grab some cloth and make some tackles. I’m proud of those guys.”

The Gators still did give up a few big plays that proved costly. Malik Dear took a screen pass 69 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, and Fred Franklin ripped off a 35-yard TD run in the fourth quarter on third-and-22. Franklin also scored on a 3-yard run on fourth-and-goal in the second overtime that was the winning score in Murrah’s 35-28 victory.

On the whole, however, Vicksburg held its ground. Bobby Twilley had two sacks in the second half, and Murrah had 17 plays — a quarter of its offensive snaps — that resulted in a loss of yardage or no gain.

In the second quarter, Murrah chewed up six minutes of clock on a 13-play drive that ended on downs at the Vicksburg 25-yard line. An 11-play drive in the fourth quarter ended the same way, and allowed the Gators to get the ball back for the possession that turned into a game-tying touchdown.

For a defensive unit that allows 40 points per game, on average, it was an impressive showing.

“We were mentally prepared,” linebacker Eli Brown said. “We haven’t always come mentally prepared, but tonight we were.”

Still, it wasn’t enough for the Gators (3-6, 1-4 Region 2-6A) to pull out a victory, and they must now win their final two games to reach the postseason. The first of those is this Friday against archrival Warren Central (1-8, 1-4).

Getting to play the Vikings, Stevens said, is a blessing. Not because of their record, or even the fact Vicksburg has won four in a row in a series Warren Central once dominated. Stevens was happy for the matchup because he feels it’ll be easier for his team to gear up for a heated rival than one where the competitive juices aren’t flowing as freely.

“I’m so glad you’ve got a game like that next. You don’t have to do a whole lot of ‘get up, get up.’ I’d hate to have Clinton next week,” Stevens said.