Gators hungry for playoff berth

Published 9:04 am Wednesday, October 19, 2016

In approaching the season, coach Marcus Rogers said, the Vicksburg Gators divide it up into four quarters. They just dominated the third, and are ready to do the same in the fourth as they begin it Friday night.

The Gators (7-2, 3-1 Region 2-5A) can clinch a playoff berth by beating Canton (3-5, 2-2) on homecoming at Memorial Stadium. Vicksburg has outscored its opponents 117-21 during a three-game winning streak and looked every bit like a team capable of not just making the playoffs but sticking around for a while once it gets there.

“Yesterday they (players) brought it to my attention before I could even bring it to their attention, that in the third quarter we went 3-0. We scored 117 points and gave up 21, and two of those touchdowns came when the JV was out there,” Rogers said. “We didn’t play great teams, but we did what we were supposed to do. We went out and executed, and no matter who we played I liked the way we looked because I’ve seen us in the past.”

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In the past, the Gators have struggled during the middle portion of their region schedule. They lost to Ridgeland and Neshoba Central in both 2014 and 2015, and lost a few other key games as well.
This year, they’ve dominated this crucial stretch against teams in the middle and bottom half of the region standings.

Quarterback Joe Johnson has completed 75 percent of his passes during the winning streak, while throwing for 868 yards and nine TDs. Wide receiver Raheam Moore has had at least two touchdown receptions in each of his last three games, and at least one touchdown in the last seven games.
Defensively, the Gators have 21 tackles for loss during the streak and held Ridgeland to 244 total yards in a 38-14 win last week.

“We’re working harder in practice. The harder you work in practice, the more fun and simplistic things are in the game,” Rogers said. “Just like I told our coaches, ‘Let’s coach hard Sunday through Thursday.’ Friday night, we shouldn’t be coaching hard. We should make some adjustments, some tweaks, but the hollering and doing the extra, we shouldn’t have to do that. If we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing Sunday through Thursday, the kids will be prepared, they will know what’s going on and they’ll be able to execute the game plan.

“And they’ve piggybacked off that,” Rogers continued. “The kids are going 100 mph for us. They know the game plan in and out. The mental and the physical part of it, we’re winning. That’s stuff we hadn’t been doing. Now it’s turning into a program. We’ve just got to continue doing what we’re doing and not let anyone deter us from our goals.”

While the Gators have had success recently, Canton has been a perpetual thorn in their side since the two teams were paired together in Region 2-5A in 2013.

Canton won the first meeting, 20-19, but was later forced to forfeit the victory for using an ineligible player. Vicksburg won by six points in 2014 and by three last year.

Canton hasn’t had a winning record since 2007, but Rogers said it has the same type of players as his squad and that leads to a tough matchup.

“They’re always athletic. Their track team is usually second in the state, sometimes wins the state. They’ve got a lot of sprinters and a lot of speed. Scheme-wise, they’re not the best, but athlete for athlete they can match us and there’s hardly any teams that can do that,” Rogers said. “We’ve beaten them both years, but it’s a game that always seems like you have it in hand but it’s close. It came down to the last play last year. The year before was close as well. They always come in and compete hard.”

All games start at 7 p.m.
Canton at Vicksburg (Radio: 1490 AM)
Clinton at Warren Central (Radio: 105.5 FM)
St. Aloysius at Riverfield (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Porters Chapel at Amite School (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Briarfield at Tallulah Academy
Delta Academy at Sharkey-Issaquena
Rebul Academy at Clinton Christian
Hartfield Academy at Central Hinds
Port Gibson at Wilkinson County
Richwood at Madison Parish


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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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