Four Down Territory: Gators and Vikings play a special (teams) game; Alcorn and MSU go long

Published 8:10 am Monday, September 5, 2022

You’re in Four Down Territory, where each week we’ll look at four notes, stats and trends from the weekend that was in Mississippi high school football, college football and the NFL.

Vicksburg High and Warren Central renewed their football rivalry on Friday night with a game that was special for all the right reasons — hard-hitting action, a sellout crowd, and a classic finish.

Warren Central won, 20-18, when it stopped Vicksburg’s attempt at a game-tying two-point conversion following a touchdown with 29 seconds left.

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The game was special for another reason as well — special teams, to be precise.

Two of Vicksburg’s three touchdowns were scored by or as a result of big special teams plays. A blocked a punt led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Malik Montgomery in the second quarter, and Nicholas Mickey returned a kickoff 92 yards for a TD in the third.

Warren Central, meanwhile, kicked two field goals, one of which was set up by a fumbled punt snap by Vicksburg. Freshman Jonah Artman booted field goals of 33 and 28 yards, the latter of which put the Vikings up 20-12 with 55 seconds left and wound up being the winning points.

The big special teams plays injected some excitement into a game that was otherwise a defensive slugfest. Both teams finished with 167 yards of total offense.

“Jonah knocks both his field goals through, and they did theirs on the block and the return. Games like this, special teams is going to be the difference,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “You look at the stuff, it’s almost a wash because you’re both getting a lot of points from them. All three phases, man, and we were able to make the last one.”

Although Southern Miss lost 29-27 to Liberty in its season opener on Saturday night — in four overtimes — it continued a recent positive trend.

Southern Miss defensive back Eric Scott returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. It was the fourth time in five games, going back to last season, that the Golden Eagles have scored on an interception return.

“We had been practicing that all week and we knew in certain situations on third-and-long that they like to run a stick out to the sticks. Coach made a great call and then I was able to make a great play,” said Scott, a senior who had two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 2021.

Southern Miss had four defensive touchdowns last season, which tied for seventh in the FBS. Middle Tennesse, Nevada and Ohio State led the country with six each.

Tallulah Academy defeated Riverdale Academy 58-40 on Friday night, and for the third week in a row the Trojans got a huge game from a different player.

Sophomore running back Brayson Morson ran for 169 yards and two touchdowns, and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. He joined teammates Wyatt Bedgood and Dee Morgan as Tallulah players who have accounted for three or more touchdowns in a game already this season.

Bedgood scored three rushing touchdowns in the opener against Briarfield, and Morgan passed for five touchdowns in a Week 2 victory over Franklin Academy.

Morson has 307 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns this season — six rushing, one receiving, and two on kickoff returns.

Alcorn State and Mississippi State’s season openers both lasted deep into the night because of weather delays.

Alcorn and Stephen F. Austin were scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m.. but didn’t get started until 9:22 because of thunderstorms in the Lorman area.

Mississippi State and Memphis did get under way on time at 6:30, but play was halted by lightning midway through the first quarter and didn’t resume until 9:10 p.m.

Both games ended just after midnight.

Alcorn coach Fred McNair said his team tried to stay loose and light during the delay. It worked for a while — Alcorn jumped out to a 24-10 lead at halftime — but the Braves couldn’t sustain the energy. They were outscored 21-3 in the second half and lost 31-27.

“The guys were loose in the locker room,” McNair said. “We let them be free to listen to music, we had snacks in the locker room for them, and they got fueled up. A lot of chocolate will do that to you.”

In Starkville, Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers said he was a little bored while waiting out the weather.

The Bulldogs scored on their opening possession and were in the middle of their second when the game was halted with 5:17 left in the first quarter. When play resumed, Rogers finished the drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jaden Walley that put the Bulldogs ahead 14-0.

Rogers finished with a career-high 450 passing yards and five touchdowns as Mississippi State won 49-23.

“We just sat in the locker room. There really isn’t too much to do. You can maybe find a TV in there and watch a game or something like that,” Rogers said. “There’s not really anything to do. You just have to be ready. I didn’t even take off my shoulder pads the whole time. I tried to stay ready. When we came out it was huge to finish that drive.”

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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