Grenada knocks out Gators in first round of Class 6A playoffs

Published 12:38 am Saturday, November 11, 2023

GRENADA — It might say something about how far Vicksburg High’s football program has come over the past few years that a first-round playoff loss is viewed not as a reason for optimism, but as a major disappointment.

That silver lining wasn’t what the Gators wanted to hear, though.

Macaleb Taylor scored three touchdowns, and Grenada’s defense shut down Vicksburg’s offense all night to beat the Gators 37-8 in the first round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs on Friday.

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“Grenada’s got a really good football team and they basically showed it tonight,” Vicksburg head coach Christopher Lacey said. “We just have to get back in our house and get stronger and faster. Those jokers played a good football game over there and that’s a good football team.”

Grenada (9-3) advanced to play Warren Central in the second round on Nov. 17.

The Gators (7-4) had their third consecutive winning season, a streak they hadn’t achieved since 2000-03. They also reached the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, something they hadn’t done since making seven consecutive appearances from 1988-94.

Vicksburg had won playoff games each of the last two seasons, however, and reached the Class 5A semifinals in 2022. That success created expectations that a one-and-done cameo appearance in the postseason did not satsify at all.

“The expectations are a state championship, so I’m proud of the way we played but still at the end of the day we’re trying to win a gold ball,” Lacey said. “I’m happy the kids fought hard all season, but we didn’t get that done and now we’ve got to go to the drawing board and get it.”

Almost nothing went right for the Gators on Friday. Grenada took the opening kickoff and drove down the field. Taylor pinned a swing pass from quarterback Charlie Fair against his helmet and ran it in for an 11-yard touchdown.

The Chargers got a field goal on their next possession, then scored again on a 3-yard run by Taylor late in the first quarter. The touchdown was set up by a misplayed kickoff that bounced in front of a Vicksburg player and was recovered by Grenada at the 24-yard line.

“It was just a mental error,” Lacey said of the kickoff. “We always talk about how you get beat by missed blocks, missed tackles and mental errors, and the mental errors showed up. They ended up capitalizing on it.”

Trailing 24-0 in the final minutes of the first half, the Gators had a chance to gain some momentum going into the locker room. Jadarius Henderson intercepted a pass and returned it to the Grenada 24-yard line with less than two minutes to go, but time ran out before the Gators could score.

A fumble return touchdown by Demarcus Johnson in the second half was negated by a penalty, while Grenada got one of its own late in the third quarter. Harvayon Willis blitzed and stripped VHS quarterback Ronnie Alexander from behind. Ryan Spencer snatched it up and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown and a 37-0 lead.

Vicksburg had less than 100 yards of offense through the first three quarters. It did not score until Alexander threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Dayquan Warfield with 2:20 left in the game. Alexander then threw a two-point conversion pass to Collin Johnson for the final margin.

“We did some stuff that we don’t typically do. It showed up tonight,” Lacey said. “I hate that for my seniors. We have to get them on to the next level and go back to the drawing board.”