2011 Year In Review: All kinds of records shattered

Published 11:41 pm Saturday, December 31, 2011

From the high school football field to the great outdoors, 2011 will be remembered as a record-breaking year for Warren County’s sports scene.

More than a dozen of the county’s high school football records fell this season, most of them at the hands of Vicksburg High’s prolific offense. St. Aloysius eighth-grader Maggie Waites set the Class 1A state record in the pole vault at the MHSAA track meet in May. And two alligator gar and one alligator caught locally shattered state fish and game records.

The assault on the record books started on Valentine’s Day, when Vicksburg resident Kenny Williams pulled in a 327-pound alligator gar while fishing in Eagle Lake. It is believed to be the largest gar ever caught, anywhere in the world, and turned Williams into a celebrity. His story was featured on television programs and in publications around the world.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am

Williams’ catch didn’t make it into the Mississippi record books, however, since it was caught in a commercial net. The record, instead, went to a trio of Vicksburg residents — Robert Belk, Talor Belk and Randy Rippy — who landed a 234-pounder while bowfishing in the Yazoo River in July. The gar qualified as the Mississippi record for trophy fishing.

In September, Brandon residents Clinton Stennett, Jody Fortenberry and Jake Ponder added to the records. They tracked down and killed a 6901⁄2 pound alligator while fishing in Eagle Lake. It was the biggest gator ever taken and weighed in Mississippi.

Not long after that gator entered the record book, a different sort of Gator made its presence felt.

Vicksburg High quarterback Cameron Cooksey and receiver A.J. Stamps set 15 Warren County records between them during a spectacular offensive season for the Gators. Their crowning achievement came in a 42-40 loss to Northwest Rankin, when Cooksey threw for 535 yards and six touchdowns. Stamps caught 19 passes for 285 yards — both state records — and five TDs.

Unfortunately, the individual success didn’t translate into team success, another theme that continued through football season.

Vicksburg finished 4-7 and missed the playoffs for a third straight year. Warren Central and St. Aloysius won just four games between them, and Porters Chapel lost in the first round of the MAIS Class A playoffs.

Despite that, five county players were selected to the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-State team. Stamps and WC kicker Devon Bell were picked to the Class 6A first team, and VHS offensive lineman Norman Price to the second team. St. Al’s Carlton Campbell and Sage Lewis were on the Class 1A first team.

Over the course of the year, other top athletes earned recognition for their efforts.

Vicksburg High basketball stars Mychal Ammons (South Alabama) and Donyeah Mayfield (Tennessee State) signed to play with Division I programs. Former St. Al baseball players Ryno Martin-Nez and Pierson Waring, now at Hinds Community College, signed to play at Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State, respectively.

Those four were among 14 Warren County athletes who accepted scholarship offers from either four-year colleges or junior colleges.

Among the county’s high school athletic teams, there was also plenty of success. St. Aloysius won team state championships in golf and swimming — plus individual titles in tennis and track — while Vicksburg and Porters Chapel advanced deep into their state basketball tournaments.

PCA’s boys team overcame a pair of halftime deficits to reach the MAIS Class A semifinals before losing to Trinity, then again in the consolation game.

Vicksburg’s boys made it all the way to the MHSAA Class 6A championship game before losing to Meridian. Led by Ammons, the Gators finished the year with a 27-4 record and won the North State title en route to the state final.

Gators coach Dellie C. Robinson had contemplated retiring after that tournament run, but instead opted to return. Nearly a dozen coaches did not, leading to the usual rash of summer coaching changes. None were longer or stranger than the hunt for Warren Central’s boys basketball coach.

Longtime Lanier coach Thomas Billups and New Hope’s Robert Byrd both turned down the job, drawing out the process until late July. Finally, Brandon assistant Chareck Cable was hired, but soon found himself in trouble.

Cable conducted two practices ahead of the MHSAA’s mandated starting date. That led the MHSAA in October to ban the Vikings from postseason play this season. Cable was suspended by the Vicksburg Warren School District for the first five games of the season.

While Cable’s coaching career got off to a rocky start, Vicksburg High football coach Alonzo Stevens rode off into the sunset. After 11 seasons as the team’s head coach, and more than 35 years of association with the program, Stevens announced his retirement at the end of the season.

Stevens finished his career with a 63-65 record. He was replaced in December by Cleveland East Side’s Tavares Johnson, putting a neat bow on a year full of change in Warren County sports.