Four Down Territory: Gators’ special teams are special; Trey Hall breaking out for Gulf Coast

Published 2:47 pm Sunday, October 22, 2023

You’re in Four Down Territory, where we examine four notes, nuggets, stats or trends from the weekend that was in Mississippi high school football, college football and the NFL.

Special teams are becoming as important a weapon for Vicksburg High as its offense and defense.

The Gators scored the winning points on a blocked punt in an 18-16 win over Callaway on Friday. They also kicked a field goal, recovered two fumbled kicks, and controlled field position with their punting in a defensive slugfest.

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The blocked punt was recovered by Callaway in the end zone for a safety that put Vicksburg ahead 18-16 with 3:05 left in the third quarter. It was the second week in a row that the Gators have scored on a blocked kick, after they returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in a loss to Warren Central on Oct. 13.

“It’s been there all year. It’s just kids having to sell out and make plays,” Vicksburg coach Christopher Lacey said.

The blocked punt was only one facet of a strong special teams performance that bailed out the Gators on a night when the offense gained a measley 175 yards.

A fumbled kickoff was recovered inside the 5-yard line and set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Collin Johnson in the first quarter. The Gators recovered a fumbled punt inside the 10 in the second quarter but did not score off it. Callaway fumbled another kickoff inside the 10 as well. It recovered, but went three-and-out to set up the blocked punt.

Dayquan Warfield helped flip field position several times by averaging 37.1 yards on seven punts.

And one of the biggest plays, from both an in-game and big picture standpoint, came from Cedrick Blackmore. The junior bombed a 38-yard field goal in the third quarter to tie the score at 16.

It was a welcome sight after the Gators lost each of their first two region games on field goals in the last two minutes, and took some criticism for their own seeming lack of a kicking game.

“I keep telling people that (Blackmore) has a range that I am comfortable with him kicking the ball,” Lacey said. “People keep saying we don’t have a kicker. We’ve got a kid that can kick balls. I’m not saying he’s Adam Vinatieri, but he does what we need him to do for us. Tonight he showed up and did it.”

Vicksburg’s narrow win over Callawy continued a trend of close games in MHSAA Region 2-6A.

The league’s teams have played nine games against each other so far, and five of them have been decided by either one or two points. All six of the region’s teams have played at least one such game, and all three of Vicksburg’s league games have fallen into that category.

Vicksburg lost 21-20 to Neshoba Central and 19-18 to Warren Central, then beat Callaway 18-16 to give it a point differential of zero through three region games.

Trey Hall is starting to break out in a big way for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

The freshman running back from Warren Central carried the ball 24 times for a game-high 142 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-24 victory over East Central Community College on Thursday.

It was Hall’s second game in a row with 20 or more carries, and his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game. He had 131 yards against Pearl River and 213 against Copiah-Lincoln. Hall has also scored five touchdowns in the past three games.

For the season, Hall has 693 yards and seven touchdowns in seven games and is averaging 8.5 yards per carry.

“It feels good that they’re counting on me. They trust me as a freshman to get in and make a good play, and I’m not letting them down,” Hall said after Thursday’s victory.

LSU head coach Brian Kelly joined an elite fraternity on Saturday. The Tigers’ 62-0 rout of Army was Kelly’s 300th career victory, making him one of only 15 coaches to reach that milestone.

Kelly is the winningest active head coach in college football, in all divisions, with a 300-102-2 record in 32 seasons.
Kelly won 113 games at Notre Dame, 34 at Cincinnati, 19 at Central Michigan and 118 at Division II Grand Valley State, to go along with 16 so far at LSU.

John Gagliardi, who had a 489-138-11 record in 64 seasons with Division III Carroll (Montana) and Saint John’s (Minnesota), is the all-time recordholder for coaching victories. Joe Paterno has the Division I/FBS record with 409.

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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