Gators score four touchdowns in second half to clobber Canton

Published 1:06 am Saturday, September 10, 2022

Vicksburg High defensive lineman Caleb Bryant was pretty blunt in his assessment of the Gators’ first half performance on Friday.

“We knew we had to lock in. We were playing like babies,” Bryant said. “We weren’t playing like they say, like we’re one of the best defenses in the state.”

Two quarters later, the Gators looked like grown men.

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Bryant had two of Vicksburg’s six sacks, quarterback Ronnie Alexander threw three touchdown passes, and Vicksburg scored on its first four possessions in the second half to pull away and beat Canton 41-6.

The Gators (1-2, 1-0 MHSAA Region 2-5A) won their region opener after losing their first two games by a total of six points, giving them some needed positive momentum heading into the most important part of the season.

“We needed it. We felt like we let the community down and we needed to bring it back,” Bryant said.

Despite the lopsided score, it was far from a perfect performance for the Gators. They had 14 penalties for 129 yards, turned it over on downs in the red zone once, and only led 14-6 at halftime.

Johnny Smith scored both of the Gators’ early touchdowns, on a 45-yard reception and a 13-yard run. He finished with 121 total yards.

“I told them this ain’t how we play,” Vicksburg coach Todd McDaniel said. “We came out flat. So let’s go out here and finish this game the way we’re supposed to play, and get our momentum going. Get our engine going. They responded.”

It didn’t take long to do it, either.

Alexander hit DeCorey Knight for a 47-yard touchdown pass on the Gators’ first series in the third quarter, and the next one was capped by a 10-yard run by Malik Montgomery to make it 28-6 and blow the game open.

Alexander added a 5-yard TD pass to Tyler Henderson in the fourth quarter, and Collin Johnson had the final touchdown on a 23-yard run.

Montgomery had 71 rushing yards for the Gators, and as a team they totaled 227.

Alexander finished the game 6-of-13 passing for 142 yards and three TDs. Alexander now has five touchdown passes this season, with four of them going for 40 yards or more. McDaniel said it was part of the game plan to throw the ball more on Friday.

“It was the idea the first two games, but we kept getting behind on down and distance,” McDaniel said. “Tonight we did a little bit better with down and distance and controlling the line of scrimmage the way we should. I thought we came out slow, but I was just happy for us to put it together for a half. I’ll be happier when I see a full game.”

The Gators’ defense, meanwhile, dominated after allowing a 1-yard touchdown run by Kevarsia Taylor on Canton’s first possession of the game. The Tigers went 64 yards on their touchdown drive and finished with 83. They had minus-27 yards in the second half.

Bryant said McDaniel’s halftime pep talk was the spark the defense needed to tighten up.

“He didn’t say a lot. He just said he’s real disappointed. You don’t want your head coach to be disappointed in you,” Bryant said. “What he thinks of us means a lot, and he knew we could do better and we knew we could do better. We just had to bring that back.”

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 139-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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