Spring game gives Gators first look at revamped roster

Published 2:12 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023

The biggest news out of Vicksburg High’s football program this offseason was its head coaching change. It overshadowed a lot of other turnover in the program.

Eleven new starters will be in the lineup when the team takes the field Friday night for its Green and White spring game. Even though the debut of Christopher Lacey as head coach will be a major storyline, getting a first look at a revamped lineup and building depth are also goals.

“With this team, it’s just them understanding that they’re not the guys that left,” Lacey said. “A lot of times kids want to think they’re going to continue the success the guys before them had, and that’s just not how it works. Every year is different. Different variables change, different people change. Now you’ve got to cement your own path as a team and how we’re going to get things done.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The Green and White game is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. It will be an intrasquad scrimmage, with the Gators’ offense and defense playing each other for two quarters. That will be followed by several scripted series of situational football.

Lacey said playing each other rather than traveling to face another team was caused by the timing of the coaching change. Todd McDaniel announced he was leaving for Ridgeland in late March, and Lacey was hired at the end of April.

“With how the head coaching hiring went, and the timing, it was only safe to keep it intrasquad and do it that way,” Lacey said. “We ended up being a week behind everybody else when the spring started, so it’s better to keep it in-house with us. And it’s better for the community to come out and see the kids.”

Who the fans will see will be a mix of old and new faces. Eight of the 11 graduated starters were on defense, and only three on offense. Most of the offensive skill players, including quarterback Ronnie Alexander, and running backs Decorey Knight, Malik Montgomery and Johnny Smith, are back.

Their experience, Lacey said, will allow the coaching staff to give some younger players an extended look in and see where they stand heading into the summer workout season.

“Most of our skill guys on offense have been starting since they were in ninth grade. To have somebody like Ronnie Alexander, who has been the quarterback for four years, is a plus to us. He’ll be at home when he steps out there, and we can look at somebody else,” Lacey said. “Demarcus Johnson, the same way on defense. It’s a blessing to have those guys who can teach the younger guys coming up how to do it.”

The offense will also have some new wrinkles. McDaniel ran the Wing-T, which was highly effective — Montgomery, Knight and Smith combined for more than 3,000 rushing yards in 2022 — but also very unique.
Lacey said the transition to a new offensive style is under way, but parts of the old will still remain.

“We will look a little different on offense. It’s nothing against the Wing-T. I’ve got my own ideas on how things should go on offense. It won’t be too much crazy stuff, but it’ll be something a little different to get our playmakers the ball a little quicker in space, and things like that,” Lacey said. “You’ll still see some of that Wing-T in there because that’s what they know, but we’ll have some different stuff going on. I guess you could say we’re multi-dimensional on offense.”

The tweaks are, of course, a result of the offseason coaching change. Lacey spent the past three seasons as Vicksburg’s defensive coordinator and is now running the entire program. Having to deal with his new responsibilities, rather than primarily focusing on X’s and O’s, has been a challenge on its own.

“Now instead of focusing on one particular portion of the program, you have to now focus on the totality of the situation. That’s a little bit different. But I’m prepared for it. I’ve been learning from different head coaches for it,” he said. “It was overwhelming probably the first two days, because you start getting these random calls about things like games and uniforms and orders and stuff. I think I’ve got it settled now. It’s the behind the scenes stuff that gets you most of the times, not necessarily the football.”

For this week, though, the focus is indeed on football. The spring game is a significant checkpoint as the end of one phase of the offseason schedule. Being on the practice field and the sideline, Lacey said, offers a bit of normalcy during a time of change.

“I’m super excited. I’m not nervous at all. The players keep me kind of grounded. When you’re out there on the practice field you’re like, ‘OK, we’re going to be all right,’ because they’re picking it up,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s still football. I’ve been doing that since I was 5. I’m at home. If you practice enough and prepare, you’ll be all right.”

• May 12 – Green and White spring game, 6 p.m., at VHS
• June 5 – Summer workouts begin
• Aug. 18 – Preseason jamboree vs. TBA
• Aug. 25 – Red Carpet Bowl, vs. Holmes County Central, at VHS

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.

email author More by Ernest