Gators running wild in 2016

Published 9:00 am Friday, October 14, 2016

Vicksburg has highest rushing totals in 5 years

Marcus Rogers is an offensive-minded coach who bases his philosophy on a strong running game. When it’s clicking, he often grins with pride as his backs chew up the field.

The grin was largely absent during his first two seasons as Vicksburg High’s head coach, but it’s quickly coming back this year.

The Gators are averaging 173.6 rushing yards per game this season, up 40 per game from 2015 and double what it was in Rogers’ debut season of 2014. Led by a rotating cast of backs and an improved offensive line, the Gators are once again proving they can run the ball after several years of ineptitude.

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“I was looking at some stats the other day, and we’re right about 1,500 or 1,600 yards rushing. That’s right about where we need to be. The goal is always 2,500, close to 3,000 for the year, and we still can achieve that,” Rogers said.

Throughout its history, Vicksburg High has had a reputation for producing more great quarterbacks and receivers than running backs. Its last 1,000-yard rusher was Darius Youngblood in 2011.

Since then, it failed to gain 1,000 yards as a team twice and its leading rusher was a non-running back twice. Its highest individual total from 2012-15 was by a receiver. Terrell Smith had 569 yards in 2013.

This year, however, things are finally clicking. Running back Mike Sims has 434 yards and four touchdowns through eight games — already the highest total for a VHS running back since Youngblood — and the Gators have run for 1,389 yards and 12 touchdowns as a team. They had 1,589 yards and 16 touchdowns all of last season.

Rogers credited the offensive line for the improvement. Tackles Kordell Watts and La’Darrin O’Neal, guards Kenya Cobbs and Marquail Gilchrist, and center Roderick Jones have come into their own, he said.

“It’s coming into place, but what’s big is the offensive line. It’s getting better week to week,” Rogers said. “They’re driving the sleds every day. They’re in the weight room squatting and power cleaning, and they’re taking pride in it. That’s our biggest deal, is the offensive line is getting a lot better and therefore you’re able to run the ball better.”

The Gators have also had success rotating their backs. No one has had more than 14 carries in any game so far. In fact, only four times has a player reached double digits. Sims has the most carries, with 53, but has not had more than eight in any one game. He had seven carries for 85 yards in a 44-0 win over Lanier last week.

Despite the scattered workload, the Gators have five players — Sims, Marlon Hodge, Tacarie Stewart, wide receiver Jeff Scott and quarterback Joe Johnson — with at least 160 yards apiece. All but Stewart has scored at least two rushing touchdowns.

“It keeps us healthy. It keeps us balanced, and we’re able to come at you from a lot of different ways. It’s hard for you to see some tendencies,” Rogers said. “That’s how we’re going to continue to play it. Play our short passing game and keep you unbalanced.”

With the season hitting the home stretch, Rogers said the balanced approach might change. Part of the reason for the rotation to this point has been to keep everyone fresh and healthy. Beginning with Friday’s road game at Ridgeland, however, Rogers said he planned to give the bulk of the workload to Hodge and Sims.

“It’s been by design so we can be fresh. I’ve got a good feeling about this year, about going deep in the playoffs,” Rogers said. “But we’re going to have a bell cow this Friday. I want to see Marlon carry that ball 20 times and see what he can do. Mike Sims will probably get 12 to 15 (carries), and Joe and Jeff will get their carries as well. But I want to see what Marlon can do with 20 carries.”

All games start at 7 p.m.
Vicksburg at Ridgeland (Radio: 1490 AM)

Warren Central at Murrah (Radio: 105.5 FM)
Central Hinds at St. Aloysius (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Benton Academy at PCA (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Humphreys Academy at Sharkey-Issaquena
Tallulah Academy at Park Place Christian
Delta Streets at Rebul Academy
Port Gibson at Franklin County
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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