Rogers, Gators prepare for spring game

Published 11:50 am Friday, May 16, 2014

Vicksburg head football coach Marcus Rogers watches over quarterback drills Tuesday during spring training at the VHS practice field. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg head football coach Marcus Rogers watches over quarterback drills Tuesday during spring training at the VHS practice field. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

When Marcus Rogers was hired as Vicksburg High’s head coach in February, he immediately set about making a few changes.

Other things, he was just as vehement about keeping.

The first waypoint of his tenure, and the first real test, is now upon the Gators. After three weeks of acclimating to each other, players and coaches will hit the field together for the first time Friday night when Greenville-Weston comes to Memorial Stadium for the spring game.

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“It’s really a morale builder for the summer. The last game we played, we lost 50-7 to Oxford. So that ought to leave a bad taste in your mouth,” Rogers said. “We need some momentum riding into the summer getting ready to prepare for McComb. We’re going to put our best foot forward Friday and try to do what we can do to get the momentum up, get the community excited, and get to the playoffs like last year.”

A key piece of that plan will be a number of young players. Sixteen players graduated from the 2013 squad, including starting quarterback Tavares Johnson Jr., leading receiver Edward Davis and leading rusher Charles Thomas.

To help fill some of the holes, Rogers looked to the future. He and his coaching staff spent two weeks this spring working with the eighth-grade team to better integrate them into the high school roster next season. Some of them are likely to see playing time with the varsity, Rogers said.

“What was key was getting those eighth-graders and getting my hands on that feeder school,” Rogers said. Now we’ve got some that we’re calling up that are going to play varsity. That was real important for the maturation of the kids. Now when we get in the summer, they know what we expect as a staff, and that’ll just be the icing on the cake.”

The returning players will also start with a clean slate, Rogers said. A new coach means no obligations to the past, a fresh set of eyes evaluating them, and something for everyone to prove.

“One thing I told the kids when I met with them is, I don’t owe anybody. It’s a fresh start for everybody. That’s coaches, too,” Rogers said. “Coach (Tavares) Johnson (Sr.) was here two years, but it’s another coach here and you have to buy into what I’m trying to do. Just trust me to know that I’m leading you in the right direction for success.”

Rogers isn’t changing everything, however. The playbook is largely the same, he said, just with some new formations to change it up.

He was also high on several returning players, including quarterback Marquez Pickett.

Pickett, a senior-to-be, only threw three passes last season but saw significant playing time as a sophomore when Johnson Jr. missed half the year with a leg injury.

Picket was 23-of-39 passing for 186 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in 2012. Rogers likes Pickett’s skillset and had confidence in his ability to succeed when given the reins to the offense.

“For what I’m trying to do offensively, he does everything I need,” Rogers said. “I don’t need him to be Peyton Manning. I just need him to be able to manage the ballgame, and our run game will take care of the rest.”

Both the younger players and older players will get a chance to make an impression in the spring game.

Vicksburg and Greenville-Weston will each get three offensive possessions starting at their own 40-yard line, along with one red zone possession from the opponent’s 20.

The junior varsity will follow that format first, followed by the varsity. The 35 plays for each team are equivalent to about a half of football each.

Rogers said he’s ready to see how everything is coming together, and where the team will go from here.

“These last three weeks have been real fun,” he said. “The guys are grasping what we’re trying to do, and I’m excited about seeing another color jersey. We’ve been banging on each other for two weeks, and now it’s time to get in competition mode.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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