Gators ready to push pace vs. McComb

Published 5:22 pm Friday, August 22, 2014

If you watch football games for the punts, you might be both a little crazy and a little disappointed with Vicksburg’s team in 2014. First year head coach Marcus Rogers has implemented plenty of changes in the months leading up to his Red Carpet Bowl debut, but one will be most noticeable when the Gators break the huddle on fourth down.

“I told my offense, we’re not punting. I told my defensive coordinator I did the research. Unless we’re inside our own 25, we’re not punting,” Rogers said. “So teams can get ready. We’re not going to punt the ball.”

That might sound odd to old school gridiron proponents, but Rogers believes this no-holds-barred mindset will raise his players’ level of effort as they get set to take on a gritty McComb squad tonight at 7 p.m.

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“I want them to think no matter what down it is, we’re trying to maximize our play yards. We’re trying to get as many yards as we want on each play, or as many yards as we need where we don’t have to punt,” Rogers said. “So mentally they’re thinking, let’s get the extra yard. Let’s do this. Let’s go down the field and block. Let’s pick this guy up off the pile. Therefore, you don’t have to put the coach in a bad situation.”

It’s just one of the many philosophical changes Rogers has installed at Vicksburg since taking over the job in March. The other alterations were on display in the team’s final dress rehearsal of the season at a jamboree where the Gators flexed their offensive muscle.

“We came out in an empty formation. We had trips one side and twins on the other and we let the ball ride. We threw it,” Rogers said. “It was a jamboree format so we didn’t get but two quarters, but we had three drives and we scored on all three drives, so we’re very efficient. My goal this year is to score on 70 percent of our drives.”

That might be tough to do against a McComb defense that hangs its hat on physicality and poise. The Tigers run a 4-4 stack and sometimes transition into the 3-4, which will provide a nice test for Vicksburg’s new fun-’n-gun playbook.

On defense, Vicksburg returns a solid nucleus from a season ago that matches up well with McComb’s single wing.

“The best matchup for us is going to be our defense versus their offense. I know I talk a lot of noise about offense, but that team I watched the other night (at the jamboree), they were very defensively sound. They were very fundamentally sound and it’s going to present a challenge.”

With the pageantry surrounding the Red Carpet Bowl in full flare, Rogers said his players are chomping at the bit to finally open the 2014 season. It’s been almost a year since Vicksburg has played its last game and the Gators are ready to see a different color jersey lined up across from them when the lights switch on in Memorial Stadium tonight.

“The kids are ready. We do our team stretch and after we jump straight into team agilities. After team agilities (Tuesday) they just all got together and just started jumping up and down hooping and hollering,” Rogers said. “They said, ‘Coach, we’re tired of hitting each other. We’re ready to hit some green and gold.’”