Confident Gators aim for playoffs

Published 10:58 am Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When Michael Guidry applied for an assistant coach’s job at Warren Central with girls’ coach Trey Banks, it was a logical next step on the career ladder at a Class 6A program.

When Vicksburg boys’ coach Kevin Watson decided to return to his native Alabama at the end of last season, Guidry, a Louisiana native, had no idea that he’d have a shot at a head coaching job so quickly.

The former Ridgeland High assistant brought an unconventional style of play, the 3-5-2 formation (three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards), to Vicksburg. Vicksburg girls’ coach Kori Babb liked it so much, she’s added it to her team’s repertoire as well to better utilize her team’s incredible speed up top.

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“In the past, they (midfielders) have had to run the full length of the field,” Babb said of the new formation. “If they get beat or go way up on offense, we’ve got outside mids who are open, available and ready to help because they’re already back there. I think that’s a huge plus for us and helps them become more involved in the offense. On the offensive side, it’s going to give us the room to spread the field and use our speed.”

The formation allows the Gators and Missy Gators to easily get back on defense, force teams to the perimeter by squeezing the middle of the field and forces the opposition to play the entire width of the team by spreading them out and opening up the middle for the attack.

In addition to a new style of play, Guidry has instituted a step-by-step approach to getting Vicksburg (2-0-1) back to where it was on the pitch as a perennial playoff team and a contender for the Division 3-6A title.

Key first will be improving Vicksburg’s anemic offense, which struggled last season in a four-win season.

Guidry also has his team focused on two goals which compliment each other. That starts with Warren Central outscored Vicksburg 4-0 in two hard-fought games.

“The next building block is beating Warren Central. They’re not only our crosstown rivals, but with soccer, it’s a four-team division and the winner of the game, looking over the past few years, has gone to the playoffs because the way the district falls. Those are smaller goals, but the big goal is to reach the playoffs.”

One change is that only one of the two meetings will count towards the division title, as Clinton will play each of the other three teams in the division once, rather than twice.

With the new formation, key will be Vicksburg’s top three midfielders: Chris Green, Will Robbins and senior Garrett Watson.

“Those guys are the heartbeat for us,” Guidry said. “They’re stepping up into leadership roles and they’re the heartbeat where our transition and our offense goes.”

Lee Middleton, a sophomore center back, anchors the Vicksburg defense.

Forwards Tylar Jackson and Chad Williams will take care of the scoring load up top.

As for the Missy Gators, they return the core of their offense with Mikayla Banks and Tabitha Hayden. While some of the other positions on the depth chart are in flux, Babb will have little problem filling them, with 30 players on her roster. More than 60 showed up for tryouts in the spring.

“I think it speaks a lot about the girls and how they’ve promoted the program,” Babb said. “They’ve created this. It’s nothing on me, it’s the girls, the players. They’ve promoted it. I think it speaks volumes about the girls and how people want to be a part of what they’re doing.”