Motivation comes easy for Gators as Warren Central approaches

Published 9:02 am Wednesday, August 31, 2016

If last week’s game against Terry was one of the most difficult for the Vicksburg Gators to get ready for, this week is certainly the easiest.

The Gators will host Warren Central Friday night at Memorial Stadium. It’s a chance to break a four-game losing streak against their archrival, gain local bragging rights, and take another step toward becoming an elite team. Given all of that, coach Marcus Rogers said, he doesn’t have to dip very far into his bag of motivational tricks this time.

“It doesn’t matter the records when this game comes up on the schedule. The kids pretty much motivate themselves. I’m just going to have the keys and crank up the car,” Rogers said. “I don’t have to do anything to fire them up. Pretty much give them the game plan and let them know what little tweaks we’re going to put in.”

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The game plan for the Gators will be similar to the one they’ve used to win their first two games — create turnovers and suffocate the opponent on defense long enough for the offense to find its footing.

Vicksburg has four takeaways and seven sacks in its first two games. That’s made up for an offense that has been competent, but sputtered at times with penalties and poor execution.

Vicksburg’s defense will get a stiff challenge from a Warren Central offense that is rolling. The Vikings are averaging 276 rushing yards per game and have scored 29 and 28 points in their first two outings. Running backs Demarcus Jones and Joe Shorter each had more than 100 yards last week against Pearl, and quarterback Jesse Wilson led the team in rushing the week before against Oak Grove.

Wide receiver Shonterrance Walton has eight receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns.

Rogers said playing Terry last week helped the Gators get ready for what they’ll see this Friday.

“I like the fact we played a team like Terry. Schematically, they’re similar to Warren Central with those quarterback runs and having a very athletic tailback,” Rogers said. “I like the matchup outside with our defensive backs and Walton. We’re going to have to do what we can do in the box to limit Jesse’s runs and don’t let Demarcus break loose in the open field.”

Rogers and the Gators didn’t have to do a whole lot of homework to familiarize themselves with Warren Central. Rogers coached against the Vikings at Murrah before coming to Vicksburg three years ago, while most of his players have grown up facing their friends and neighbors from the other side of town.

“We’ve pretty much been going against each other now for the last six years. I know his scheme’s not going to change and mine’s not going to change. The players playing the roles are going to change,” Rogers said.

And the players, Rogers added, are the biggest difference in this latest edition of the rivalry.

Vicksburg has not scored the last two times it’s faced WC, losing 42-0 in 2014 and 23-0 last year. These Gators are better and hungrier, Rogers said, and most importantly aren’t as prone to getting rattled the first time something goes wrong.

He’s already seen it a couple of times this year, when Wayne County scored an early touchdown in the opener and last week when the venue for the Terry game shifted at the last minute because of poor field conditions. Both times, the Gators shrugged off the adversity and went on to win.

With a big game in front of them, Rogers said, motivation and attitude are expected to lead to success.

“I think, for the most part, the players have changed. It’s a different breed of guys. We haven’t had as much talent as we have now the last couple of years. Even with them last year, they were young guys,” Rogers said. “If you look at the last four teams we played — Oxford; Clinton, even though it was the spring game, it was very competitive and you see what they’re doing to folks; Wayne County is still a tradition-rich program — they’ve been able to get up for the ones that we need to get up for. I need a little more consistency and for them to get up every week. But when it’s time to get up for a team the caliber of Warren Central, they get up for it.”


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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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