Vicksburg tries to put tough loss behind it

Published 9:00 am Monday, October 31, 2016

In the immediate aftermath of their heart-wrenching double-overtime loss to Grenada on Friday night, a lot of the Vicksburg Gators wore shocked looks on their faces and were doubled over in disbelief.

Within a few minutes, however, those gave way to the realization that nothing was really lost in the big picture.

The Gators (8-3, 4-2 Region 2-5A) are still heading to the playoffs. They’ve still got to beat Holmes County Central (5-5, 3-3) to secure the best seed possible. They’ve still got an opportunity to make a run through the Class 5A playoffs and win a state championship.

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Friday’s 42-41 loss, in the grand scheme of things, was only a minor setback to all of those goals.

“That’s rough to handle, but we’ve got to understand we’re not in the situation we were last year,”

Vicksburg quarterback Joe Johnson said, referring to having to win the 2015 finale against Holmes just to get into the playoffs. “That just means we’re not going to have a home playoff game. We’re still going to be in the playoffs and we’re going to see them again. So we’ve got to go back to work and get better.”

Friday’s game against Holmes isn’t meaningless. The winner will get the No. 3 seed out of Region 2-5A and go on the road to face either Oxford (7-3) or Lake Cormorant (7-4) in the first round of the playoffs.
The loser will pay a big price. Holmes County Central will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss. If Vicksburg loses it will travel to play West Point (9-1), the top-ranked team in Class 5A, in the first round.

“I’d rather go to Oxford. That’s what I want to do,” Vicksburg coach Marcus Rogers said.

Rogers’ preference doesn’t entirely have to do with avoiding a state championship favorite in West Point. Oxford knocked the Gators out of the playoffs last season on its way to the North State championship, and Rogers would like an opportunity to exact a bit of revenge.

Going to Oxford would also mean the Gators will have won against Holmes County and shook off a tough loss.

Vicksburg overcame a 21-7 deficit in the second half, and a seven-point deficit late in the fourth quarter, to send Friday’s game with Grenada to overtime. A missed extra point in the second overtime was the difference in the one-point loss.

The Gators also had a fumble returned for an 84-yard touchdown by Grenada, failed to score on two other trips inside the red zone, and threw an interception in the final minute when they were getting close to field goal range with the game tied at 28.

Even with the loss and some of the missteps, Rogers said the overall flow of the game showed him that the Gators are ready to contend for more than just a middle of the pack playoff berth.

“It’s a testament to these guys and all the work they’ve put in. A culture change is what we’re going through right now, and I think it’s right where we need it to be,” Rogers said. “Going down 21-7 against one of the top teams in the state, and then come back and tie, and then they go back up and we tie it, and then to go to overtime and score at will on them, it’s just a testament to where we’re going. It’s my job to get these guys back up quick, because we’ve got to go to Holmes County and anything can happen. We’ve got to take care of business so we can still finish third.”

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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