Vicksburg falls to McComb in Red Carpet

Published 1:40 am Saturday, August 23, 2014

Vicksburg quarterback MarQuez Picket (8) hands the ball off to running back Ernest Stevenson (20) Friday night during their game against McComb at Memorial Stadium. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg quarterback MarQuez Picket (8) hands the ball off to running back Ernest Stevenson (20) Friday night during their game against McComb at Memorial Stadium. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

On Vicksburg’s first drive of the game Friday, it used a short screen pass and a run up the middle to gain 5 yards. It was the type of quick success spread offenses relish, and put the team in a good position to convert on third down. But it was followed by a false start and an interception for a series that pretty well summed up the Gators’ performance in a 26-21 loss to McComb in the Red Carpet Bowl.

For every solid step forward, VHS took two leaps back in head coach Marcus Rogers’ debut. The offense and defense both made impact plays when it was needed most, but the penalties and turnovers plagued the team in the end.

“I think offensively, effort (and) turnovers. Game one, offense is usually the slowest to come around but shooting yourself in the foot is not an excuse. They did nothing to stop us and we continued to turnover. Against a good ball club, that’s just not going to fly,” Rogers said.

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Pickett finished the game 11-of-16 or 91 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His counterpart, McComb’s Venchenza McCray, rushed for three touchdowns.

After Pickett’s pick to begin the game, McCray scrambled past a host of missed tackles and flying Gator defenders to put McComb on the scoreboard first. After missing the extra point, the Tigers and Vicksburg traded possessions until a fourth-and-17 at the 49 put Rogers’ non-punting theory to the test.

The first-year head coach trotted out Marc Grace to kick the ball away, but the senior kept the snap and rumbled for the first down on the fake. A block in the back negated the momentum shifter, however. Grace actually punted the second time around and pinned McComb inside the 2-yard line.

The move paid off. On second down, Jeremy Parson scooped up a Tiger fumble to give Vicksburg the ball at the 2-yard line. Antonio Brown only needed one play to barrel into the end zone, and Grace’s extra point put the Gators ahead 7-6 early in the second quarter.

McComb answered with another McCray rushing touchdown to make it 12-7, but the Gators were determined not to go down without a fight. Kareeme Butler took the kickoff down to the 32-yard line, and Pickett responded with a back-shoulder end zone throw to Tedarius Brown to give Vicksburg a 14-12 lead heading into the halftime locker room.

But the Gators could not keep the momentum, and McComb scored twice more to take a lead it didn’t relinquish. Vicksburg never quit, and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to by Jeff Scott to bring the game to 26-21, but the ensuing onside kick just missed the outstretched hands of Grace, solidifying the hard-fought loss.

It was a tough setback for the Gators, but Rogers said he is confident his team will bounce back against South Delta next Friday night.

“The biggest thing I told them was don’t let this loss beat you for next week. An old, wise coach told me, sometimes you’ve just got to build them up, so we’re going to build them up,” Rogers said. We’re going to clean up the mistakes, and we’re going to come out Monday ready to roll.”

Rogers lauded his team’s effort but was concerned about their missed tackles and penalties. Too many times a Vicksburg player was in position to make a play but let the other player make a move and skirt by him. It’s something he has vowed to shore up.

“You can always find some positives in a loss. It’s not all negatives. They kept fighting. They fought until the end. Even on the onside kick, I thought we had it,” Rogers said. “They fought, the preserved, and it’s just little things.”