Four Down Territory: Gators’ duo has historic night; WC gets its hands up; and Delta State brawls with Chowan
Published 8:32 pm Sunday, September 10, 2023
Welcome to Four Down territory, where each week we recap four notes, nuggets or trends from the week that was in Mississippi high school football, college football and the NFL.
Vicksburg High has established its offensive identity with a strong running game the past few seasons, but the past two weeks it’s made its money in the air.
Ronnie Alexander had his second consecutive game with more than 250 passing yards, and Tyler Henderson had his second straight 100-yard receiving game in a 38-32 double-overtime victory against Natchez on Friday.
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Besides adding to their season stat totals, it was a historic night for both players.
Henderson became only the fifth player in Warren County history to catch at least four touchdown passes in a game. Vicksburg’s Michael Sweet (1973), Porter’s Chapel Academy’s Cole Smith (2006) and Warren Central’s Korey Davis (2011) also caught four. Vicksburg High’s A.J. Stamps holds the county record with five, against Northwest Rankin 2011.
Henderson finished with seven receptions for 180 yards. He surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for his high school career the previous week against Forest Hill and now ranks ninth on the county’s all-time list with 1,298 yards.
Alexander, meanwhile, is the ninth Warren County player to throw at least five touchdown passes in a game and the first since Vicksburg’s Joe Johnson in 2014.
Alexander was 11-of-26 passing for 252 yards against Natchez, after throwing for 250 yards and two touchdowns vs. Forest Hill. He is less than 300 yards away from becoming the 13th member of Warren County’s 3,000-yard club for his career, and only needs three more touchdowns to become the 14th quarterback to throw 30.
Delta State had an early — and ugly — end to its game against Chowan on Saturday when the game was called with 4:16 left in the fourth quarter because of a brawl between the teams.
Delta State’s Tamaj Hoffman broke a 19-yard run down to the Cowhan 20 and went out of bounds on Chowan’s sideline. Some pushing and shoving at the end of the play was being broken up by an official when a Delta State lineman ran over and pushed the Chowan player.
In response, most of Chowan’s team ran over from the bench area and swarmed the DSU lineman. The official was knocked over as well.
During the ensuing melee, Chowan defensive lineman Nikotis Gordon can be seen on video swinging his helmet several times at the Delta State lineman, who was under a pile of bodies.
A few seconds later, Delta State tight end Adam Duncan was pinned against a fence by a separate mob of Chowan players as they continuously threw punches at him. One fan threw a punch at him as well, and another appears to swing or throw a football helmet from behind.
The game was called at that point, with Delta State leading 42-18. It was awarded the victory.
Neither school nor the Gulf South Conference issued statements on the incident Saturday night or Sunday, but Delta State head coach Todd Cooley posted two videos on X, formerly known as Twitter.
On one post, Cooley commented, “So we have helmets coming from the bleachers. Wow. That’s the tweet!”
Great footage here! pic.twitter.com/14R6cUIdTP
— Todd Cooley (@CoachToddCooley) September 10, 2023
— Jacob Gragg (@CoachGragg76) September 10, 2023
A frequent coaching point for Warren Central’s pass rushers is to get their hands up and knock down the ball if possible. It seemed to sink in last week.
The Vikings had nine pass breakups in a 21-3 victory Germantown, with four of those occurring as tipped balls near the line of scrimmage. One deflection was picked out of the air for an interception by Julien Demby and led to the first touchdown of the game. Demby returned it for a touchdown, but it was negated by an illegal block penalty. WC running back Eric Collins Jr. ran 67 yards to the end zone on the next play.
Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said he teaches his defensive linemen to bat down balls, and against a team like Germantown that throws a lot of short passes with low trajectories it was very effective.
“We do that constantly. I feel like our D-line is very disruptive,” Morgan said. “Coming in, we knew they like the quick game, hitches, and they were big on screens. That was part of the game plan as well, was making sure we were active with our hands early in the snap count.”
Warren Central’s pass rush had another big play in a more traditional way as well. Late in the second quarter, Germantown quarterback Jackson Hood dropped a snap, picked it up and rolled to his left as the Vikings’ defense closed in. Hood made an ill-advised attempt to throw the ball away, and it was a floater that was intercepted by Garrett Orgas. The senior safety returned it 54 yards for a touchdown that gave WC a 14-0 lead.
“They fumbled the snap and we go over stuff like that all the time in practice,” Orgas said. “I knew my D-line had them. I stayed back and waited for the quarterback to throw up a bad pass. When I got the ball I just took it to the house and took advantage of it.”
Ole Miss went 3-for-3 on fourth-down conversions in Saturday’s 37-20 win over Tulane, including a 21-yard touchdown pass from Jaxson Dart to Michael Trigg late in the fourth quarter.
One of the times head coach Lane Kiffin elected to kick the ball, however, resulted in something that hadn’t been done in a long time.
Kicker Caden Davis made a 56-yard field goal with 1:53 remaining to put Ole Miss ahead 30-20 and effectively seal the victory. It was the fourth-longest field goal in school history and longest since Bryan Owen kicked a 57-yarder — coincidentally, also against Tulane — in 1988.
Cloyce Hinton owns the two longest field goals ever for Ole Miss. He kicked a 59-yarder in 1969 vs. Georgia, and a 58-yarder against Houston in 1970.
Davis’ field goal was also just the third from 50 yards or more for the Rebels since 2013.
On Monday, Davis was named the Southeastern Conference special teams player of the week.