Rain or shine, Hughes pushing Gators ahead of season opener

Published 8:02 am Friday, August 10, 2018

Vicksburg High coach Tim Hughes called an audible during his team’s preseason preparations this week.
With the threat of severe weather looming for Friday, the first-year coach bumped a scheduled intrasquad jamboree scrimmage up two days to Wednesday afternoon.

And, instead of playing under the lights Friday evening, the Gators will now have a light workout to close out the final week of the preseason.

The Meet the Gators pep rally that was supposed to precede the scrimmage was also canceled.

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“If it does what it’s supposed to do, we didn’t want to not get it in,” Hughes said, adding that the decision was made on the fly. “We were texting coaches at 2:30, 30 minutes before practice, saying, ‘What do you think about doing it this way?’”

Ensuring that the Gators got the needed work in from the scrimmage was more important than the upheaval to their carefully plotted week, Hughes said.

“You’ve got to play that game. We can’t not develop that skill set and expect to show up and play well,” Hughes said. “The more times they have to use that skill set, the better they’re going to be. There’s ways to simulate that, but you’ve got to make it happen.”

The Gators finished 5-7 and reached the playoffs last season. It wasn’t a terrible showing, especially considering they were outscored 148-33 during an 0-5 start.

Unfortunately, most of this year’s key players were on the sideline through that and the late-season charge in which the Gators won five of their last seven games. Thirty-four seniors, including 18 starters, graduated. Their replacements did fairly well in the spring game, but that was 2 ½ months ago. Getting some more live game action under their belts before Clarksdale comes to town was crucial to this particular group, Hughes said.

“I don’t know that it’s a bad thing when we’re so raw and new,” Hughes said. “We’re young, and that doesn’t just mean our age. There’s a lot of honing in we need to do.”

Wednesday’s scrimmage was the last major waypoint on the road to the regular season, and the second time Hughes has put the Gators into a game-like situation in less than a week. They had a full scrimmage last weekend that Hughes said he was pleased with. He said it showed they’d made progress from the spring through the summer.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t have a kid that hadn’t been in on offense, defense or special teams,” Hughes said. “We were way further along in that Saturday scrimmage than the spring game. You could tell our conditioning changed, and the clarity we did everything with was a lot better.”

Hughes added he wasn’t worried about wearing out his players for the regular season by working too hard in the preseason.

“We’ve got to run ourselves into the ground. If it doesn’t happen then, then it happens every week,” Hughes said.

The season opener is next Friday against Clarksdale, in the second half of the annual Red Carpet Bowl doubleheader at Memorial Stadium. Warren Central plays Oxford in the first game at 5:30 p.m., followed by VHS and Clarksdale at 8.

Aug. 17, at Vicksburg High
5:30 p.m. – Oxford vs. Warren Central
8 p.m. – Clarksdale vs. Vicksburg

Tickets for the 2018 Red Carpet Bowl are now on sale at Michel’s Music Downtown, River Outfitters/River Belles, 601 Sports, the Vicksburg Warren School District athletic office and local schools.
Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the gate, and are good for both games of the annual football doubleheader.

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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