Gators savoring chance to take on Class 5A champ Wayne County

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, August 17, 2016

For the Vicksburg Gators, Friday’s Red Carpet Bowl is all about opportunity.

The opportunity to start the season with a win. To beat one of the state’s best programs in Wayne County. To prove to the rest of Mississippi — and themselves — that they can, and will, be a factor in Class 5A.

The season opener against defending Class 5A champ Wayne County is a game coach Marcus Rogers said the Gators have been looking forward to since they were ousted in the 2015 playoffs by the eventual runner-up Oxford.

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“It’s game week and we happen to be playing the state champion. We’ve been preparing since November the 15th. It’s a game that we’ve had circled, and a game that the guys are very excited about that can put us on the state attention list. We’re ready for it to get here,” Rogers said. “Beating a ballclub like that does something for coaches, players, community, everybody. It elevates you to another level. It’s a game I just can’t wait to get to.”

The 2015 season was largely seen as one in which the Gators laid the foundation for future success. They finished 6-6 and lost 35-21 to Oxford in the first round of the playoffs. A number of key players on that team, including most of the defensive line and quarterback Joe Johnson, were sophomores who showed improvement and potential over the course of the season.

Rogers said he was especially excited to see Johnson take the next step toward becoming a great quarterback. Johnson threw for 1,635 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He’s got a talented group of receivers to throw to. Raheam Moore (27 receptions, 381 yards, five TDs in 2015) and Jeff Scott are returning starters, while James Allen and DeAngelo Dixon have shown promise during the summer. They should combine to make the passing game potent.

“I’m most excited about seeing Joe Johnson’s maturation. I know what the defense is going to do. They’re going to swarm to the ball, they’re going to hit and they’re going to be fast. But to see Joe with those receivers is going to be real nice. We went through the lumps. This year, now it’s time for us to reap the benefits,” Rogers said.

The Gators have been looking forward to playing Wayne County for the past nine months, but didn’t get a dress rehearsal. Their preseason jamboree at Port Gibson last week was canceled because of rain and poor field conditions.

Rogers expected that to have some effects early in Friday’s game, but added that it should pass quickly.

“It’s going to affect you. It’s always a good thing when you can get those kinks out and knock out that early rust,” Rogers said. “The good thing is, Wayne County didn’t play either. So both of us will be knocking that rust off early in that first quarter and hopefully we’ll get into some type of rhythm.”

Having a razor-sharp focus on Wayne County for the better part of a year should also help. At this point, Rogers and his players know the War Eagles backward and forward. They just need to put the lessons into practice and find a way to win.

“We’ve been competing all summer to get to this point,” Rogers said. “Everything we did since last November has been geared toward Wayne County.”



6 p.m. – Warren Central vs. Oak Grove (Radio: 105.5 FM)

8:30 p.m. – Vicksburg vs. Wayne County (Radio: 1490 AM)

Tickets: Tickets for the 2016 Red Carpet Bowl are $10 in advance, or $12 at the gate. Advance tickets are available at Vicksburg and Warren Central high schools and junior highs, the Vicksburg Warren School District athletics department, Michel’s Music and River Outfitters.

Online: For live scoring updates on Friday night, visit the Vicksburg Post’s Facebook page (, or follow us on Twitter at

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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