2022 All-County Football: Vicksburg’s great season gives McDaniel The Post’s Coach of the Year award

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The first time he met with the parents of Vicksburg High’s football players, Todd McDaniel recalls, his long-term vision for what the program could be was met with some disbelief and eye rolls.

Maybe they didn’t believe him.

Maybe they’d heard it all before, from a string of coaches who couldn’t seem to push the program forward.
This time, though, they had a coach who was able to back up the talk of a better tomorrow with a tomorrow that was better.

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In three seasons, McDaniel transformed a program that had only had fleeting glimpses of success for the previous two decades into one that was one win away from playing for a state championship.

For his work in turning the program around — or perhaps simply waking up a sleeping giant — McDaniel is the 2022 Vicksburg Post football Coach of the Year. He is the first Vicksburg High coach to win the award since 2013.

“I really appreciate it. It’s something that coaches never talk about, but at the end of the year when they receive that accolade it’s always amazing,” McDaniel said. “Without the coaches and players I wouldn’t have it, so we’re going to share this one.”

McDaniel’s 2022 Gators did things that the program hadn’t achieved in years, and in some cases decades. They won the Region 2-5A championship, the first since 1990. They won 10 games and reached the Class 5A semifinals, both for the first time since 2001.

And the final 10-3 record marked the program’s first back-to-back winning seasons since 2007-08. The 2015-16 teams had two non-losing seasons in a row, but finished 6-6 in one of them.

All of that came in the wake of several years of chaos within the program. When McDaniel was hired in 2020, he became Vicksburg’s sixth head coach in nine seasons.

McDaniel brought a track record of success, though. He’d turned around a long-struggling Wingfield program in the mid-2000s, and took Hazlehurst on several deep playoff runs.

A 14-0 win over Neshoba Central on Oct. 21 this year was the 100th of his career and also the region championship clincher.

After going 4-8 with Vicksburg in 2020, he got them to the second round of the playoffs in 2021 and the Class 5A semifinals in 2022.

Several seniors are expected to sign with Division I college programs in December or February. Four players made the Class 5A All-State first team, and three were picked to play in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game.

Seeing the program’s steady progression, and the accolades that are starting to flow in is rewarding, McDaniel said.

“It’s been an extemely fun ride. Just for the coaches and players to buy into your vision, and go out there and take it from the weight room to the practice field to the game field,” he said. “I don’t receive this award without those guys. Those guys have wholeheartedly bought in to everything that we’ve said we wanted to do, and we’ve come together collectively to make sure that it gets done.”

As proud as he is of the Gators’ victories over the past couple of seasons, McDaniel also seems strangely pleased about some of the losses.

Five of Vicksburg’s eight losses in 2021 and 2022 were by a total of 13 points. This season ended with a 14-0 loss to West Point in the Class 5A North State championship game, in which the Gators only gave up one offensive touchdown and moved the ball inside the 20-yard line four times.

The agonizingly close losses, McDaniel said, showed that the Gators belong in the conversation when it comes to Mississippi’s elite teams. It’s just finding that extra edge to truly push them into the upper tier.

“You go back and look at film and I kind of cringe. We had opportunities to blow that game open and just didn’t get it done,” McDaniel said, referring to the loss to West Point. “So it’s a process of what we’re trying to do as far as taking that next step.”

As they head into 2023, the Gators seem capable of doing that. Three of the four All-State players are graduating seniors on defense, as are several other talented, multiple-year starters.

Some younger stars have started to emerge already, however, and the offense has a number of playmakers returning. As McDaniel spoke in an office in the fieldhouse, the clanging of metal plates in the weight room attested to the fact that the work toward keeping the Gators on top is already under way.

“We’ve started on next year already. We want to take the next step. We’re trying to solidify ourselves as being one of the best teams in 6A football this year coming up,” he said. “Success is not owned, it’s rented. The moment you stop paying rent is the moment you get moved out of your house. The moment you stop working is the moment you stop losing your success.”

He added that he doesn’t plan on Vicksburg’s first 10-win season and deep playoff run in 21 years being a one-off.

“I hope you can understand that this is not the end. This is just the beginning of what we are trying to do,” McDaniel said. “We’re trying to build a solid football program that is in place for years after we’re gone.”

2022 ALL-COUNTY FOOTBALL
• All-County defensive team
• All-County offensive team
• Vicksburg DL Demarcus Johnson claims Defensive Player of the Year award
• Warren Central RB Trey Hall takes Offensive Player of the Year award

Vicksburg Post Coaches of the Year
2022 – Todd McDaniel, Vicksburg
2021 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2020 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2019 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2018 – Michael Fields, St. Aloysius
2017 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2016 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2015 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2014 – B.J. Smithhart, St. Aloysius
2013 – Tavares Johnson, Vicksburg
2012 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2011 – Alonzo Stevens, Vicksburg
2010 – Todd Montgomery, Central Hinds
2009 – Curtis Brewer, Warren Central
2008 – B.J. Smithhart, St. Aloysius
2007 – Randy Wright, Porters Chapel
2006 – Jim Taylor, St. Aloysius
2005 – Randy Wright, Porters Chapel
2004 – Randy Wright, Porters Chapel
2003 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
2002 – Jim Taylor, St. Aloysius
2001 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
2000 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1999 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1998 – J.J. Plummer, Porters Chapel
1997 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1996 – Bubba Booth, St. Aloysius
1995 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1994 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1993 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1992 – Bubba Booth, St. Aloysius
1991 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1990 – James Knox, Vicksburg
1989 – James Knox, Vicksburg
1988 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1987 – Joe Edwards, St. Aloysius

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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