Gators return from bye week to face Columbus

Published 8:00 am Thursday, September 13, 2018

With no opponent on the schedule and a couple of games under their belt, the Vicksburg Gators used last week’s open date for a little “me” time.

It was a week of evaluation, of what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong, and how to improve things going forward. They’ll find out Friday night if it was time well spent when Columbus comes to Memorial Stadium and the season resumes.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“It was just a good week of taking care of us. It doesn’t always need to be what they’re doing. When everything is going great, that’s what a week’s progression involves is getting ready for them. But when you’re young like we are, it’s us getting better,” Vicksburg head coach Tim Hughes said. “I think we cleaned up a lot as far as progression of the game and timing issues on a lot of things offensively. We had to cover a lot of protection issues. Defensively, it was just back to some fundamentals — getting off the ball, getting off our blocks, and going and getting some tackles.”

The Gators (0-2) have struggled coming out of the gate, although that wasn’t entirely unexpected. They are replacing 34 seniors from last year’s team and have faced two quality Class 6A opponents in Clinton and Warren Central. Those two teams outscored the Gators 83-6.

Columbus (0-3), meanwhile, has had a similar arc to its season. It has been outscored 162-24 in its first three games, but has also faced three of the state’s best teams in Noxubee County, West Point and Starkville. Noxubee County and West Point won the Class 4A and 5A championships, respectively, last season, and Starkville was the Class 6A runner-up. All three have been ranked No. 1 in their classifications at some point this season.

Starkville walloped Columbus 72-6 last week, which Hughes said could lead to some misplaced overconfidence.

“On our behalf, it can be a bad thing because you want the kids to get up for something and seeing something like that it’s kind of hard to convince them,” Hughes said. “But our emphasis, as it’s been all year, is that it’s not about the next opponent. It’s about us. It’s about us going to this next game and not making the same mistakes over and over again that we made that first game.”

More than anything, Hughes added, he wants the Gators to simply get into a rhythm. Their season to this point has been choppy, with the opener canceled because of severe weather and then the open date oddly placed in Week 3.

The stops and starts have made it difficult to get into a flow and correct the mistakes common to a young roster. With the Region 2-5A opener against Germantown only a week away, this is the last checkpoint before each game ratchets up a notch in importance.

“I hate playing these guys this week without that third game. You can see their progression. I know they took it on the chin, but they took it on the chin to a very good club,” Hughes said of Columbus. “This is that one more game. You get this in and you get to clean up a lot more things and really know what’s going to be your attitude and your forte, and what you’re going to hang your hat on. Hopefully we can get a really good picture of that going into district.”

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.

email author More by Ernest