Gators looking to turn lessons into success

Published 8:00 am Friday, September 28, 2018

With almost all of their starters new to the lineup or their roles, the early part of this season was expected to be a bit of a learning process for the Vicksburg Gators.

It’s just about time to take the tests.

The Gators (1-3, 0-1 Region 2-5A) will host Neshoba Central (5-1, 0-1) on Friday, in a pivotal game both in their season and the Region 2-5A race. For both teams, it’s an opportunity to get a needed win after dropping their opener and to avoid falling even farther behind in the standings.

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For Vicksburg specifically, it’s a chance to gain traction at the end of a difficult stretch, and to show that it’s making progress in its rebuilding effort.

“We now have four games under our belt. It’s time to use the experience we’ve gotten and try to win some ballgames,” Vicksburg coach Tim Hughes said.

After being outscored 83-6 against Class 6A powers Clinton and Warren Central, the Gators have scored 73 points against Columbus and Germantown. Their yardage output has increased by an average of 65 yards per game, and quarterback Levi Wyatt threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns against Germantown.

Hughes said some of the improvement came from seeing how opponents had success against the Gators — not just the X’s and O’s, but how they executed them.

“I think we’ve gained a lot of discipline. We’ve seen it and gotten used to the discipline it’s going to take to be successful,” Hughes said. “If you’ve never been there, you’re not used to it. They’ve been there now and seen what other teams did and what worked for us when we’ve won.”

The lesson for this week is to start building consistency. The win over Columbus was followed by a 58-27 loss to Germantown. Hughes called that a “reality check” and a reminder not to dwell on success.

“We had a win the week before, and think you’re on top of your game. That’s the reality check that there’s a lot of work to be done,” Hughes said. “It gives us a clear objective of the week.”

Vicksburg has won the last two meetings with Neshoba Central — including a 23-0 rout last season when the Gators entered with an 0-5 record — but Neshoba won its first five games this year.
The Rockets’ offensive approach is not just run-heavy, it is run-obese. They have thrown a total of eight passes in six games while rushing 271 times for 2,048 yards.

“They have athletes. When they need to get a first down and stretch it out, they can, but they’re a ball-control offense,” Hughes said.

The Gators have a much more balanced offense, but Hughes added that it can take a page from Neshoba’s playbook.

“They’re another team, where they know exactly what they do, and they do it well,” Hughes said. “If you go through life hoping everybody else performs poorly, you’re not going to be successful. We have to learn how to perform at our best.”

All games start at 7 p.m.

Porter’s Chapel at River Oaks (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Neshoba Central at Vicksburg (Radio: 107.7 FM)
Warren Central at Greenville (Radio: 105.5 FM)
St. Al at Central Holmes Christian (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Cathedral at Central Hinds
Tallulah Academy at Rebul Academy
Sharkey-Issaquena at Manchester
Port Gibson at Jefferson Davis County
Provine at Clinton
Madison Parish at Metairie Country Day

ONLINE: For live updates on Friday night, visit

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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