Gators end skid; lead Region 4-5A

Published 7:43 pm Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Vicksburg Gators have not only ended a long losing streak already this season, they’re now in first place.

Jehari Riley made 14 saves, including three in a penalty kick shootout, as the Gators rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat Callaway in their Region 4-5A opener on Tuesday night.

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The game ended 2-2 in regulation, and the Gators won the shootout 2-1.

Vicksburg (3-1, 1-0 Region 4-5A) will play Callaway at home on Thursday night, and is already flying high with its fast start. The team finished 0-17-2 last season and snapped a 23-game winless streak by beating Greenville on Nov. 8.

“That’s some way to start,” Vicksburg coach Destin Ellis said. “I’m so proud of the boys. We had a rough season last year and they believed in me and I believed in them, and it’s so great to see them win a ballgame. A district win amplifies that. We have high hopes. Our goal is to make the playoffs.”

Callaway jumped on the Gators for two quick goals on Tuesday, but Riley — a 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior who was a defensive lineman for Vicksburg’s football team — stood tall after that. He made 11 saves in regulation.

“He is a monster in the goal,” Ellis said with a laugh. “I tell everybody he looks like the Predator in goal because he’s so big and has those dreads. If I’m playing and he runs at me, I’m thinking twice about challenging him.”

Riley’s heroics in the goal allowed the Gators to mount a comeback. Zach Stokes scored the team’s first goal, and Bryan Cothran converted a penalty kick with 10 minutes left in regulation to tie it at 2. The Gators also missed a penalty kick in the second half.

The game then went straight to the overtime shootout. Chris Williams and James Hilderbrand converted their penalty kicks for the Gators and Riley stopped several of Callaway’s chances to give them the victory.