Conquistadors conquer Vicksburg

Published 12:05 am Saturday, November 11, 2017

OLIVE BRANCH — Olive Branch ripped a page out of Vicksburg High’s playbook to send the Gators into hibernation for the winter.

Jordan Green returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second half for a momentum-shifting score, and Olive Branch went on to beat Vicksburg 21-6 in the first round of the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs on Friday night.

Vicksburg (5-7) had scored a defensive touchdown in five consecutive games, but couldn’t stretch the streak to six despite forcing four turnovers of its own. Olive Branch (11-1) did that instead, using Reed’s touchdown return to take a two-score lead after the Gators had scored just before halftime to get within eight points.

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“Hats off to Olive Branch. They had a good team. They’re not 10-1 for no reason,” Vicksburg coach Lorenzo Breland said. “They’ve got a good D-line and they got after us tonight.”

The end of the game was marred by a brawl with 1:08 remaining. As officials tried to sort out a penalty, Vicksburg linebacker De’undrea Moore threw a punch at Olive Branch lineman Daniel Raybon. Moore was immediately flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct as a pack of players formed around the incident.

Moore then ran around the pile and decked Olive Branch’s Kyle Berryhill with another punch, and chaos ensued. While players jawed with each other in a wild scene and Berryhill lay on the ground for a couple of minutes, Moore appeared to chase yet another Olive Branch player across the field but was unable to catch him.

With Olive Branch having the ball and only needing to take a knee to run out the clock, officials decided against bringing the teams back out for another play.

The Gators had a four-game winning streak snapped and lost for just the second time in seven games. They have not won a playoff game since 2008, but did manage to salvage what appeared to be a season spiraling out of control just six weeks ago.

The winning streak came after an 0-5 start in which the Gators were outscored 148-33.
Breland was hopeful that would be what this Vicksburg team is remembered for, and not the ugly final seconds of the season.

“If that’s what they want to remember us for, that’s just more adversity we’ve got to deal with,” Breland said. “Being able to stay locked in, and wanting to come to work when people in the school and community were doubting them, after all we’ve been through the last five months, there’s a lot of bright spots we can look at and not just those last 46 seconds or whatever it was.”

Olive Branch advanced to face Lake Cormorant in the second round, but the Gators did not make it easy.

Cole Catledge put the first points of the game on the board with a 7-yard run with 2:04 left in the first quarter, and Demarcus Ware made it 14-0 with a 39-yard TD run midway through the second.

Vicksburg answered with a touchdown drive in the final moments of the half, capped by a 1-yard run by quarterback Joe Johnson with two seconds remaining. The touchdown came on a fourth-and-goal play, after a Vicksburg receiver was stopped just short of the goal line.

Greg Hayden’s extra point attempt was blocked to keep the score at 14-6, and Olive Branch quickly added to its lead on the other side of the halftime break. Green jumped in front of a short pass thrown by Johnson and ran it back 47 yards for a touchdown that made it 21-6.

Neither team added to those totals in a penalty-filled game. Vicksburg was flagged 21 times and Olive Branch 12 — totals that did not include the multitude of personal fouls that likely would have ensued from the game-ending melee, had play resumed.