Gators battling injuries as their playoff hopes hang in the balance
Published 8:00 am Friday, October 19, 2018
One of the big themes of Vicksburg High’s football season has been a quest to find what works. The team’s coaching staff has experimented with different schemes and lineup combinations in an effort to lay the foundation for future success.
It’s had mixed results, but enough positive ones to feel like things were generally moving in the right direction — at least until a wave of injuries hit the roster like a tsunami in last week’s loss to Ridgeland.
The Gators had a half-dozen starters dinged up, some of whom will miss Friday’s home game against Canton.
It’s a less than ideal situation heading into a game they need to win to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.
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“We tried to put a significant effort in the last two weeks of trying to move people to one side of the ball and using one or two on both sides,” Vicksburg coach Tim Hughes said. “This week, we’re back to whoever the best guy is at that position is who we have to go with. We could have seven or eight kids play almost every snap this week.”
One of the key injuries is to starting quarterback Levi Wyatt. He aggravated a nagging shoulder injury last week and his status is a game time decision, Hughes said. The sophomore has thrown for 1,665 yards and 13 touchdowns, with 11 of those coming in the last four games.
Wyatt’s absence would not only hurt, it could have a ripple effect on the rest of the offense. His backup is Tyrese Wolfe, the team’s leading receiver with 33 receptions for 449 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Laurence Sullivan, the junior varsity quarterback, could also fill in but he has never taken a varsity snap.
“It’s tryouts right now,” Hughes deadpanned.
If Wolfe has to go behind center, the Gators would essentially be without their starting quarterback and best receiver. Another receiver, Deandre McCalpin, is in the concussion protocol, and tight end Jesse Pedyfoot was also injured last week.
Missing so many key pieces of the passing game, Hughes said, would force the Gators to change their offensive approach. Although they’ve averaged a respectable 119.7 rushing yards per game, they’ve thrown the ball on 60 percent of their plays this season.
“It’ll probably flip a lot as far as run to pass ratio,” Hughes said. “Because of that, what we have to do is sell out defensively. We’ve been trying to play young over there and continue to excel offensively. But with that happening, those guys that haven’t been getting every snap over there are going to get every snap to try and secure up the defense. Now we’re going to need to do a lot of stopping just to stay in the game.”
That’s to stay in the game, and the playoff race.
Vicksburg (2-4, 1-3 Region 2-5A) and Canton (5-4, 1-3) are tied with Callaway (4-4, 1-3) for last place in the region, a game and some tiebreakers out of a playoff spot. Vicksburg can still play its way in — it finishes the season against Callaway and first-place Holmes County Central — but there is no more margin for error. This Friday’s game is an elimination game for both the Gators and Tigers.
“We’re going to have to have help, but the people we’re going to be battling for a playoff spot are going to be going through the three top guys in the district and we’ve been through all of those except for one,” Hughes said. “It’ll be that battle of who’s 3-4 and who’s 4-3 for that last spot. We’ve got to win definitely the next two to keep those two under us.”
FRIDAY’S AREA GAMES
All games start at 7 p.m.
Canton at Vicksburg (Radio: 107.7 FM/1490 AM)
Clinton at Warren Central (Radio: 105.5 FM)
Porter’s Chapel at Park Place (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Riverfield at St. Aloysius (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Central Hinds at Washington School
Wilkinson Christian at Tallulah Academy
Briarfield Academy at Prairie View
Rebul Academy at Claiborne Academy
Port Gibson at Wilkinson County
Simmons at South Delta
Sterlington at Madison Parish