Gators trying to build on their recent success

Published 7:55 am Friday, September 21, 2018

The Vicksburg Gators don’t seem like a football team that should suffer from overconfidence. They were, after all, outscored 83-6 in their first two games and still are tinkering with their lineups to find the right players at the right positions.

Heading into Friday’s Region 2-5A opener against Germantown, however, that’s exactly what they’re battling according to head coach Tim Hughes. The Gators beat Columbus 45-28 last week for their first win of the season, and now must pivot to an important game and tough opponent without getting swept up in the wave of success.

“It’s good, and that brings its own challenges,” Hughes said. “A coach I used to work for would say that things are never as bad as it seems, and things are never as good as it seems. So you come off a week where you win and the kids have a good time with it, they got to enjoy that, and you’ve got to make sure they don’t get the big head and think there’s nothing left to do. You’ve got to work harder this week than you worked last week if you want to get better.”

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The win over Columbus was a shot in the arm for the Gators (1-2) after a difficult first two weeks. They scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams — Tyrese Wolfe had three, on a kickoff and two interception returns — forced five turnovers and rushed for 190 yards.

The Gators also weathered a wild second quarter in which 47 points were scored, and two of Wolfe’s three second-half interceptions came deep in VHS territory to thwart scoring drives.
It was the kind of performance, Hughes said, that shows the Gators are moving forward as they continue a massive roster overhaul.

“It’s going to be continuing to turn the corner. I don’t know when the season ends, but that’s all I can ask is that we progress,” Hughes said. “We cleaned it up from game one to game two, and in game three we were a lot cleaner than the first two games. But there were still plenty of mistakes that we made that we have to clean up.”

The next challenge is facing Germantown (1-3), which has also struggled early this season but for an understandable reason. Its three losses were against Clinton and Northwest Rankin — ranked Nos. 3 and 5, respectively, in this week’s Associated Press Class 6A poll — and Southaven, a Class 6A playoff team in 2017.

Sophomore running back Nick Barnes already has 448 rushing yards and four touchdowns for the Mavericks, who are averaging 205.3 rushing yards per game as a team.

“They’ve played up in all but one of their games, and that one game they didn’t they had some success. When you look at them on film, they are extremely good at what they do. When they get it going, they’ll probably be in one of those top one or two spots like they have been in the past,” Hughes said. “They run the ball well. They stay on blocks well. Defensively, they get where they’re supposed to be. They don’t get misaligned. They don’t get outnumbered, and when they have to make tackles they make tackles.”

The start of region play marks a fresh start for all of Mississippi’s teams, and Vicksburg doesn’t have to look deep into its history to be reminded of that. It lost 30-7 to Germantown last season to fall to 0-5, yet was still able to rebound and make the playoffs.

Hughes said that, coming into the year, he had modest goals with nearly 20 new starters in the lineup. He is, however, aiming to surpass them now that the Gators have a few games and some success under their belt.

“My goal is always to overachieve, and I think that’s where we’re at this year,” Hughes said. “If you’re looking at what we have this year, and if we end up getting in the playoffs and with a winning district record I think we’d be overachieving and it could be beyond that. But that’s what we’re always pushing, is to overachieve.”

All games start at 7 p.m.

Vicksburg at Germantown (Radio: 107.7 FM)
Northwest Rankin at WC (Radio: 105.5 FM)
Union Christian at PCA (Radio: 104.5 FM)
St. Aloysius at Park Place (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Clinton at Madison Central
Port Gibson at Amite County
Riverfield Academy at Central Hinds
Collegiate Christian at Tallulah Academy
Humphreys Academy at Sharkey-Issaquena
Briarfield Academy at Prentiss Christian
Prairie View Academy at Rebul Academy
General Trass 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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