Gators regrouping after loss

Published 8:44 am Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On their first offensive series Friday night, the Vicksburg Gators effectively moved the football, got into Germantown territory, and seemed on their way to answering an early score by the Mavericks.

And then they fumbled.

After getting the ball back a few plays later, they threw an interception. Later on, two more interceptions led to Germantown touchdowns that turned the tide in an otherwise close game.

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The starts and stops resulted in a frustrating 31-12 loss for the Gators in their Region 2-5A opener. There are still seven region games left, and plenty of chances to have a successful season. The Gators (3-2, 0-1 Region 2-5A), though, will have to start by picking themselves up after giving away a key game.

“These kids play off confidence. When things are going bad, you can kind of tell some of them shied away. We’ve got to continue to build them up and attack the mental psyche,” Vicksburg coach Marcus Rogers said.

The Gators go on the road this week to face struggling Neshoba Central (1-5, 0-1), which might be the exact remedy for their biggest obvious problem — a lack of offensive punch. Neshoba is allowing 30 points per game, a mark Vicksburg has only reached once in five games.

Quarterback Joe Johnson threw four interceptions in the loss to Germantown, but the Gators’ real trouble on offense has come from an inability to consistently run the football.

Johnson rushed for 103 yards on 14 carries Friday, but most of his yardage came on scrambles once the pass protection broke down. Vicksburg’s running backs combined for just 15 yards on 14 carries.

For the season, the Gators’ running backs are averaging a paltry 3.8 yards per carry.

For Rogers, an offensive-minded coach who likes to gear his system toward a strong running game, it’s led to some hand-wringing and re-evaluation of the team’s scheme.

He said, moving forward, he might install some more option plays and base the running game off of Johnson in the hopes it’ll loosen things up.

“I want us to be able to run the ball, but I see where it’s still tough getting that second level blocked and getting this running game to the next level,” Rogers said. “You hate to put everything on Joe as a young kid to win ballgames, but I see where our best run play is our quarterback runs.”

On the positive side, Vicksburg’s defense has been solid all season and continued to hold up its end against Germantown.

Germantown scored one touchdown on an interception return, and another off an interception that was returned to the 4-yard line. The Gators forced two turnovers and held the Mavericks to 222 yards of total offense. Through five games, they’re giving up an average of 14.6 points — nearly 10 less than last season.

“That’s all you can ask for them to do is keep us in the game, or keep us in the game long enough for us to get some things together,” Rogers said. “They forced turnovers. They stopped them on fourth down a couple of times. I just think that, from here on out, if we can get anything going on offense, and these kids are getting better, we’ll be fine.”

That “we’ll be fine” message is one Rogers said he planned to preach this week. Neshoba Central, Lanier and Ridgeland, Vicksburg’s next three opponents, have a combined record of 5-13. It’s a soft stretch of the schedule that should give the Gators a chance to get back on their feet.

“Don’t hang your heads. Everything we’re trying to achieve is still there for us to take,” Rogers said. “We would’ve liked to have had this win, but we still control our own destiny at the end of the day.”

Up Next

Vicksburg at Neshoba Central

Friday, 7 p.m.

Radio: 1490 AM

Online: For live scoring updates on Friday night, visit, or

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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