Gators trying to shore up defense

Published 7:55 am Friday, October 5, 2018

Over the past three weeks, Vicksburg High has found its groove on offense.

The defense still needs work.

The Gators have averaged 38 points and nearly 400 yards of offense in their last three games, while giving up 47 points per game and a total of 1,343 rushing yards. They surrendered 570 rushing yards in last week’s 68-42 loss to Neshoba Central, and 461 yards and 58 points the week before against Germantown.

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It’s a split that has made their high-scoring games both exciting and frustrating to watch as they try to turn the corner in a rebuilding season.

“You don’t like the results, but you end up being able to gain a lot of insight from a game like that and see the things you need to work on,” VHS coach Tim Hughes said of the game against Neshoba Central. “From a coaching standpoint, we always try to progress and move on to something else. It was a game that forced us to reflect and say there are a lot of basics that we still need to work on.”

First and foremost, Hughes said, is finishing plays. Neshoba Central had nine runs of 19 yards or more, but Hughes said the film review last weekend showed more missed tackles than totally blown assignments or the defense getting pushed around.

He attributed that to the Gators’ lack of overall experience — the team lost 34 seniors from last season and only had a handful of players back who had seen significant playing time — and was confident it would improve with time.

“I was disappointed with our defensive effort, but when you go back and watch the film we weren’t out of place. We missed tackles. We were where we were supposed to be, but we weren’t getting off blocks. The truth is, they’ve just got to get better at those things,” Hughes said. “It’s just a work in progress. We’re coaching our butts off. We’re trying to make adjustments that we can make. When it’s all said and done, it’s that skill set you’ve got to build and that takes years of development to get good at it.”

The Gators (1-4, 0-2 Region 2-5A) are in last place in Region 2-5A, tied with Canton and Callaway, as they try to turn their season around. They’ll go on the road on Friday night to face a Cleveland Central team that won the region title last season but struggled out of the gate this year.

Cleveland Central (2-4, 2-0) lost its first four games and didn’t score more than eight points in any of them. It has won its first two within the region, however, beating Callaway 28-22 and Ridgeland 27-20.

The Wolves have put together the winning streak despite having a total of 366 yards of offense in the two games. If ever there was an opponent for a struggling defense to gain confidence against, this might be it.

“They run the ball. They don’t run it from a Wing-T. Everybody we play might decide to go to that,” Hughes laughed, referring to the offensive scheme Neshoba Central used last week. “They’ve gotten better as the year has gone on. They have gotten considerably more disciplined and better at what they do.”

All games start at 7 p.m.

Madison Central at Warren Central (Radio: 105.5 FM)
Vicksburg at Cleveland Central (Radio: 107.7 FM)
Central Hinds at Porter’s Chapel (Radio: 104.5 FM)
St. Aloysius at Cathedral (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Franklin County at Port Gibson
Tallulah Academy at Claiborne Academy
Rebul Academy at Franklin Academy
Sharkey-Issaquena at Kemper Academy
Tensas Academy at Briarfield Academy
Madison Parish at Wossman

ONLINE: For live updates on Friday, 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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