Region 2-5A rivals Vicksburg, Callaway meet for rare trip to Class 5A semifinals

Published 9:27 am Thursday, November 17, 2022

On one side of the MHSAA Class 5A North playoff bracket sit two traditional, familiar powers with West Point and Neshoba Central.

The other side belongs to the disruptors.

Vicksburg High (9-2) and Callaway (9-2) will go head-to-head Friday at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium eyeing a rare trip into the deep water of the postseason.

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Vicksburg has not been to the state semifinals since 2001, and Callaway since 2013. For comparison, West Point has been to six consecutive Class 5A championship games and Neshoba Central has been to the semifinals twice in the past three seasons.

“Being at this point, it’s really good for both programs. But Friday night we’ve got to separate ourselves apart,” Vicksburg head coach Todd McDaniel said.

Although they’re playing for a trip to new territory, Vicksburg and Callaway have plenty of history with each other. They’ve been paired together in Region 2-5A since 2017, and often in other regions for years before that. This is the 37th time they’ve played each other.

The 36th meeting was a 30-7 rout in Vicksburg’s favor on Oct. 6. It was one of only two losses for a resurgent Callaway team — the other was a 21-13 defeat vs. Neshoba Central on Oct. 28 — and an odd data point on its resumé.

McDaniel said it was important for his team to not rely on past success as an indicator of future performance.

“They’re a good football team, and it’s hard to beat a good football team twice,” McDaniel said. “You have to let your kids know that you beat them before, but this is the most important game that we’ve played against them. So let’s get out here and play football, and do the things necessary to win the football game.”

For Vicksburg, those things are running the football and playing outstanding defense — two core values of any successful team.

In the regular season meeting, Vicksburg’s held Callaway to 155 total yards while its offense threw one pass in the second half and finished with 179 rushing yards.

“We were able to drive the ball down the field and not turn the ball over. That was the main thing. We forced some turnovers and won the special teams battle that night,” McDaniel said. “To beat them again we’re going to have to come out with that same formula. We can’t turn the football over, can’t put our defense in bad positions. We also need to be ourselves and have fun.”

The Gators have allowed 107 points in 11 games, which is the fewest in Class 5A. They had three 100-yard rushers and ran for 414 yards in their first-round game against Cleveland Central last week. The 36-14 victory was Vicksburg’s ninth in a row, its longest winning streak since the 1993 team won 10 in a row.

McDaniel said not resting on their laurels will be the key to matching that number — and possibly surpassing it. The winner between Vicksburg and Callaway will face either West Point or Neshoba Central next week.

“We’re hitting on a lot of cylinders right now, but at this time of year you’ve got to. One bad game and your season’s over. Everything is rented, it’s not owned,” McDaniel said. “We have to make sure when we get out there on that field the reason we’re having success is because we’re playing hard, we’re working hard and we’ve got to continue to play hard and not make the mental mistakes.”

CALLAWAY AT VICKSBURG
• Friday, 7 p.m.
• MHSAA Class 5A playoffs, second round
• Radio: 107.7 FM
• Tickets are available online only through GoFan.co

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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