Gators breathe sigh of relief after offensive breakout

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2023

One of the best things about winning last week, Vicksburg High football head coach Christopher Lacey joked, wasn’t the thrill of victory. It was not having to hear about the team’s offensive struggles any more.

The Gators piled up nearly 500 yards of total offense, with an even split of 250 yards passing and 248 rushing. There were several big plays and, most importantly, short ones that finished drives.

The latter was a relief to see after they’d failed to score on nearly a dozen red zone possessions spread across two regular-season games and one preseason jamboree.

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“It’s just showing the kids that it’s always been there. We’ve always been in the position to score those touchdowns and they just have to execute,” Lacey said. “Hopefully it’s created motivation in everybody else and a certain discipline that allows us to continue.”

The Gators hadn’t scored since the second quarter of last season’s second-round playoff victory over Callaway. They were shut out in the Class 5A semifinals by West Point and again in this year’s opener vs. Holmes County Central. They also failed to score in two quarters of a jamboree against Laurel.

That frustration ended early against Forest Hill, when a 46-yard completion to Tyler Henderson on the first play of the game set up Malik Montgomery’s 11-yard touchdown run on the second.

Henderson later caught a long touchdown pass, and DeCorey Knight turned a short one into a 50-yard touchdown. Henderson finished with four receptions for 132 yards and Knight had four for 98 yards.

Knight also ran for 142 yards and a touchdown on only nine carries.

“We challenged everybody, the coaching staff and the kids, to finish. That’s been our Achilles’ heel the past couple of weeks, is the red zone and our inability to get in the end zone,” Lacey said. “Plus it’s going to hurt when you look in the newspaper and it says you’ve gone 12 quarters without a touchdown. I think everybody’s a little motivated to do some stuff.”

The breakout on offense also showcased quarterback Ronnie Alexander’s full potential. The senior spent most of his first three seasons as a starter handing the ball off in the Gators’ Wing-T scheme. Against Forest Hill, he added 35 rushing yards to his 250 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Alexander also surpassed 2,500 passing yards for his high school career.

“It’s always been there. He’s always been a kid that could make it happen with his feet,” Lacey said of Alexander’s running ability. “I think he’s more comfortable that way, and it builds his confidence throughout the game because he’s not making as many mistakes.”

With the offense hopefully back on track, the Gators (1-1) will try to keep it there as they go on the road to face Natchez (0-2) this Friday night at 7.

Natchez has allowed 42 and 41 points in its first two games, but Lacey said they’re still a dangerous opponent.

“They’re going to be athletic like they always are. Wide open, spread, they’re going to formation you to death. Their quarterback is a fast runner who can throw the deep ball well,” Lacey said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us, because we look like the same team a little bit.”

Getting another victory and starting to build a winning streak, Lacey added, will be good for his team’s morale after an uneven start to the season.

“It’s good for the kids, because they hear people talk every day about how they didn’t do this or didn’t do that,” Lacey said. “I told them to forget the external stuff, and let’s focus on the internal. I think they did a good job of that last week.”

All games start at 7 p.m.
Vicksburg at Natchez (Radio: 107.7 FM)
Germantown at Warren Central (Radio: 105.5 FM)
St. Aloysius at Tri-County (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Porter’s Chapel at Humphreys Aca. (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Union Christian at Tallulah Academy
Sharkey-Issaquena Academy at Kemper Academy
Bowling Green at Central Hinds
Port Gibson at Wilkinson County
Madison Parish at Northeast

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.

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