Gators begin stretch of Thursday games on road vs. Jim Hill

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, September 21, 2022

It might be in an actual folder tucked away in a desk drawer somewhere in the fieldhouse. It could just be locked away in the brains of the coaching staff, ready to spring into action from muscle memory.

Whatever or wherever it is, Vicksburg High is ready to once again break out the Thursday Plan.

The Gators (2-2, 2-0 MHSAA Region 2-5A) have a short week as they prepare to play Jim Hill (0-3-1, 0-2) Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Jackson. It’s the first of three Thursday night games among the last six of the regular season, but the 11th the Gators have played since 2019.

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“We’ll do the same things we do on a normal Wednesday, and Thursday will just be game day instead of getting prepared and getting all of the equipment together,” Vicksburg coach Todd McDaniel said. “We won’t practice on Wednesday as long on a short week. On Thursday we normally go about an hour, but on a short week on Wednesday we’ll go about an hour and 45 to make sure we touch on everything.”

Vicksburg’s run of Thursday games over the past three seasons has largely been a function of playing in a region heavily populated by teams from the Jackson Public Schools District.

JPS has seven high school teams under its banner — four of which are in Region 2-5A with Vicksburg — but only two football fields for them to share. It’s created a delicate balancing act as both fields normally host games on Thursday and Friday.

This week’s game will be at the North Jackson Field, located off of Medgar Evers Boulevard and Interstate 220.

Vicksburg went through a similar situation in 2020, when its stadium was undergoing renovations and it played three Thursday night games at Warren Central and two others on the road.

Vicksburg also played three Thursday games in 2019, two last season, and has three this year. In addition to this week’s contest, the Gators will play home Thursday games vs. Callaway on Oct. 6 and Holmes County Central on Nov. 3.

The Callaway game was scheduled for a Thursday night because of a conflict with the Vicksburg Warren School District’s fall break.

The Holmes County Central game, which is the regular-season finale, was placed on Thursday by the MHSAA because of a statewide shortage of officials. All Class 5A and 6A teams will play on Thursday that week.

McDaniel said he likes playing on Thursday. He believes the Gators’ unorthodox schemes on offense and defense give them an advantage on a short week, and it allows the coaching staff to get out and scout other opponents on Friday.

“It’s nothing new. They’ve (Jim Hill) been doing it for years so it’s definitely nothing new for them. They have to do this on Thursday and Friday,” McDaniel said. “Where it really helps us, is on Friday we get an opportunity to go see somebody else play and scout.”

Vicksburg is coming into its matchup with Jim Hill hot off of back-to-back routs in its first two Region 2-5A games. The Gators outscored Canton and Forest Hill 95-12.

Jim Hill figures to be another pushover. Its last victory was on Oct. 18, 2019 — it played Port Gibson to a 12-12 tie earlier this season — and it has won a total of six games in the past 10 seasons.

McDaniel, though, said there are plenty of things he wants the Gators to take seriously even if they are a heavy favorite. It had 18 penalties in last week’s 54-8 win over Forest Hill, and is averaging 11 per game.

The Gators are in a soft part of the schedule. The first four region opponents, including Provine next week, all have records at .500 or below. The October slate is much more difficult, however, and straightening out bad habits now is essential.

“We’ve got to continue to work and get a little more stern on them in practice. Best believe they know that, too. They know you’re not going to get away with that with Ridgeland, or West Point or Lafayette,” McDaniel said. “It’s a different level of focus. Still, as a coach it drives you crazy because regardless of who you’re playing you can’t have that.”

THIS WEEK’S AREA GAMES
Thursday, Sept. 22
Vicksburg at Jim Hill, 7:30 p.m.  (Radio: 107.7 FM)
Friday, Sept. 23
Games starting at 7 p.m.
St. Aloysius at Cathedral (Radio: 101.3 FM)
PCA at Wilkinson Christian (Radio:104.5 FM)
Tallulah Academy at Prairie View
Deer Creek at Briarfield Academy
Centreville Academy at Central Hinds
Madison Parish at Ferriday
Games starting at 7:30 p.m.
Warren Central at Oak Grove (Radio: 105.5 FM)
Port Gibson at Crystal Springs
Clinton at Germantown

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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