Gators getting their offense into high gear

Published 11:38 am Thursday, September 14, 2023

In two short weeks, Vicksburg High’s offense has gone from immovable object to irresistable force.

In wins over Forest Hill and Natchez, the Gators have piled up 71 points and more than 850 yards of total offense. The surge came after they went 12 quarters — going back to last season and including a preseason jamboree — without scoring at all and has given the team a jolt of life following a shutout loss to Holmes County Central in the opener.

“It’s showing the talent of the kids and the depth that we have, especially offensively,” head coach Christopher Lacey said. “It’s cool to see them get their opportunities and shine in the moment. A lot of the plays they made Friday were clutch plays.”

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 Gators came into the season with a host of playmakers on offense and have needed that depth early this season. Senior running back Johnny Smith could miss the entire season after suffering a knee injury and Malik Montgomery missed the game against Natchez with a shoulder injury.

In their place, juniors Cedrick Blackmore and DeCorey Knight Jr. have stepped up. Knight has 360 combined rushing and receiving yards and three touchdowns in the past two games, while Blackmore had 104 rushing yards and a touchdown — a 10-yarder in the second overtime that turned out to be the game-winner — in the 38-32 victory over Natchez.

The biggest boost, however, has come from the passing game.

Senior quarterback Ronnie Alexander passed for more than 1,000 yards in both 2021 and 2022, and is already halfway to that total through three games in 2023. He’s thrown for 502 yards and seven touchdowns the past two weeks, and had five TD passes against Natchez.

“It’s just putting Ronnie in favorable positions that he’s comfortable doing,” Lacey said. “He’s not the tallest guy, but he’s a really good athlete. It’s putting him in the right positions to make the right throws, where you’re playing to his strengths. The offensive coordinator is doing a good job of putting him in that position.”

Knight had 98 receiving yards in a 33-6 victory over Forest Hill on Sept. 1, but Alexander’s favorite target has been senior wide receiver Tyler Henderson.

Henderson has 11 receptions for 312 yards and five touchdowns over the past two games. He had four touchdowns vs. Natchez, making him only the fifth player in Warren County history to achieve that feat.

“He’s always been that person his whole life. He’s just now getting that opportunity. He’s not just doing one thing, he’s being able to maximize his whole potential as a player,” Lacey said.

The totality of the offensive burst, Lacey added, has been a better balance that is making opponents rethink how they play the Gators. The offense is more of a 50-50 split at the moment, as opposed to the 75-25 run-pass ratio of the past few seasons.

“It makes people respect you more and it makes people play you honest,” Lacey said. “It makes people have to sit down and game plan for who they have to play this week. That’s what we want.”

After the slow start against Holmes County Central, it’s also helped the Gators turn their season in the right direction. They are 2-1, and a win this Friday on the road at Terry (3-0) will ensure a winning non-region record for the first time since 2016.

Vicksburg plays Yazoo City (0-3) next week for homecoming, then has an open date before the MHSAA Region 2-6A opener at Neshoba Central (0-3) on Oct. 6.

“It’s good for us because I don’t know if we’ve come out of non-district with this type of record in the past couple of years,” Lacey said. “Just being able to have that is good confidence for the kids, knowing we can go in and get those wins.”

All games start at 7 p.m.
Clinton Christian at St. Aloysius (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Brandon at Warren Central (Radio: 105.5 FM)
Vicksburg at Terry (Radio: 107.7 FM)
Park Place at Porter’s Chapel (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Tallulah Academy at Wilkinson County Christian
Humphreys Academy at Sharkey-Issaquena
Canton Academy at Central Hinds
Port Gibson at Raymond
Lafayette Renaissance Charter at Madison Parish

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