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Vicksburg Gators defense 'as advertised' in 42-20 win over Ridgeland

Linemen Caleb Bryant, Jacolby Harris put on show as Gators blew by the banged-up Titans

RIDGELAND — Vicksburg’s highly touted defensive lineman Caleb Bryant said the Gators felt like they “let the whole city down” after losing their first two games to Germantown and Warren Central.

They’ve been making up for it ever since.

Bryant and the Gators dominated Ridgeland Friday night in a 42-20 romp, winning their sixth game in a row and moving to 5-0 in Region 2-5A in the process.

“After those losses, we felt it hard,” Bryant said. “We came to practice and we all said we weren’t going to feel like that again. And we’ve been working so much harder.”

It showed Friday against the Titans.

The Gators (6-2) scored touchdowns on seven of their first eight first-half possessions and limited the Titans (5-3) to two first downs on their seven possessions. They led it 42-7 at the half.

Quarterback Leroy Alexander tossed a couple of touchdown passes to Tyler Henderson and Decorey Knight ran for a pair of touchdowns. Basically, whatever the Gators did, it worked.

The 20 points the Vicksburg defense allowed matched a season-high from a Sept. 2 loss to cross-town rival Warren Central, but two of Ridgeland’s three touchdowns came after the Gators activated the running clock by taking a 35-point lead in the first half.

“Our defense has been playing extremely hard all year,” Vicksburg coach Todd McDaniel said. “Even those first two games of the year, we lost them on the last play of the game after our defense had played lights out… our whole team has been grinding. We’ve had injuries, but we’ve stayed together and played through them.”

The Gators can clinch a district championship next Friday night with a win at Neshoba Central (6-2, 6-0 in Region 2).

If the Vicksburg defensive line plays as well as it did Friday night, the Gators will be tough to beat.

Bryant, the senior who holds offers from Utah, Oregon and Southern Cal, was as-advertised, but sophomore defensive end Jacolby Harris had a big game, tallying a couple of sacks and two tackles for a loss. Linebacker Dennis Battle made several tackles and had a 43-yard interception return to set up a second-quarter touchdown just when Ridgeland appeared to have captured their first semblance of momentum.

“We watched a lot of film to prepare for tonight,” Ridgeland coach Teddy Dyess said. “Nobody else has blocked those guys all year. They are as physical a team as we’ve played this season, I think they are right up there with West Point in terms of competing for a 5A State Championship this year.”

The Titans, who started the season 4-0 before falling in three of their last four, would love to get back in that conversation themselves. To do it, they’ll  need to get a lot healthier, and quick.

Ridgeland took the field Friday night without any of its top five receivers, including sure-fire, all-state wideout Ayden Williams and perennial playmaker Jabraxton Boone.

That put a lot of pressure on sophomore quarterback Garrison Davis and junior tailback Marquavion Cuff against that tough Vicksburg front.

“We’re not just a little banged up,” Dyess said. “We’re a lot banged up. On top of the receivers, we were missing three guys on defense. But we think we’re going to get seven of our eight missing starters back next week, so hopefully we can get a win, get better and be ready for a playoff run. Our goal is still to be holding that Golden Ball at the end.”