Vicksburg knocks off Class 5A champ Wayne County

Published 1:40 am Saturday, August 20, 2016

At times, the game was as sloppy as the field, with procedure penalty after procedure penalty. But in the end, the result for the Vicksburg Gators was absolutely beautiful.

The Gators defeated Wayne County 35-20 Friday evening, knocking off the defending Class 5A champions to begin the season in perfect fashion.

Vicksburg’s win also sealed up a local sweep of the 54th annual Red Carpet Bowl, as Warren Central defeated Oak Grove 29-3 earlier in the evening.

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On a night where the field conditions were extremely muddy, it was the Gators’ passing game, and the play of a ruthless defense in the fourth quarter, that helped seal the win.

Clinging to a one-score lead in the fourth quarter, Vicskburg mounted a 65-yard drive that helped put the game away.

A 20-yard pass from Joe Johnson to Raheam Moore capped off the drive, which included a mishandled punt on the part of Wayne County. The score gave Vicksburg a 35-20 lead that their defense did not relinquish.

On the night, Johnson finished 17-of-24 passing for 161 yards and two touchdowns. His receivers were able to outmaneuver Wayne County’s defenders, who were on their heels most of the night due to the solid play of the receivers and tough footing conditions.

“We practice on a practice field every day that is similar to the way this field is. When we saw the weather, we didn’t hiccup,” Vicksburg coach Marcus Rogers said. “We knew (Wayne County) wasn’t used to it. We know they practice on turf. We’re not that fortunate to have turf so we just practice on what we can practice on.

“When they saw the field, my guys said to me ‘Coach, this is just like at practice.’”

Even being in the lead for most of the game, the Gators were never able to feel at ease against a Wayne County offense that switched tactics late in the first half.

The War Eagles, who were trailing 21-12 with less than a minute to go, moved to a hurry-up offense that saw them march the ball all the way down to the 3-yard line with 8 seconds remaining.

Thanks to a leaping play by Gator defender Devontay Knight in the end zone to knock down a sure touchdown, Vicksburg was able to stop Wayne County and go into the locker room with the nine-point lead.

“I don’t think that stop set the tone for anything,” Rogers said. “I was mad they were able to move the ball all the way down the field like they did.”

The hurry-up continued throughout most of the second half. The Gators’ defense bent but did not break, despite giving up 178 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. But, Wayne County only scored one touchdown in the second half.

“I think schematically we made some adjustments at halftime and then our conditioning came to play,” Rogers said. “We have an excellent strength and conditioning coach. My guys weren’t cramping. We were able to impose our will a little bit and they looked to get a little tired.”

Moore finished the evening as the Gators’ top receiver with 88 receiving yards and one touchdown. Jeff Scott added another 43 yards receiving and one touchdown.

Johnson, Scott and Marlon Hodge each scored a touchdown on the ground. Hodge finished the evening with 60 rushing yards to lead the way for Vicksburg, which will host Terry next Friday.

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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