Panthers visit unhappy Gators

Published 5:00 am Thursday, September 5, 2002

Still smarting from an upset loss to Wayne County, the VicksburgGators bring an angry attitude into Friday night’s home gameagainst the Brookhaven Panthers. Kickoff is 7:30 at “TheSwamp.”

Vicksburg, the preseason No. 1 in Mississippi high school polls,lost a 28-13 decision to Wayne County last Friday in the Red CarpetBowl Classic. Loaded with talent in the line and the offensivebackfield, the Gators were heavily favored entering the game.

Coach Tucker Peavey’s Panthers erased a 9-7 halftime deficit tobeat Hazlehurst 24-15 in last Friday’s season opener. Peaveyexpects his team to have a much more difficult time withVicksburg.

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“I’m sure Vicksburg will be chomping at the bit Friday night,”said Peavey. “They are a good team. They present you with a lot ofproblems.

“They have huge linemen. They have several who are300-plus.”

Vicksburg, under the direction of Alonzo Stevens, has 14returning starters from last year’s 10-4 team which lost 38-31 toStarkville in the Class 5A North State championship game. Seniorquarterback Justin Henry (6-3, 180) is a college prospect with astrong throwing arm who passed for 1,600 yards and 10 touchdownslast season. Senior fullback Phelan Gray (5-9, 245) is a powerfulrunner who rushed for over 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.

The Gators’ offensive line is awesome. Michael Smith (6-5, 325),Paul Gorney (6-3, 300), Jesse Warfield (6-2, 300) and DelvechioEllis (6-3, 320) are among seven players tipping the scales at 300pounds or more on the roster.

“They are a big, fast good team,” said Peavey.

Peavey and his staff have concentrated on correcting first-gamemistakes. The Panthers were penalized several times for offsidesand illegal procedure calls in the opener.

Brookhaven overcame Hazlehurst with a strong second half, led bysophomore quarterback Jimmy Johns and a pumped up defense. Johnsthrew touchdown passes of 22 yards to tight end Nick Downs and 11yards to flanker Kendell Nickelson. Johns completed 6 of 12 passesfor 73 yards and also rushed 6 times for 63 yards.

Josh Anderson followed Johns with 15 carries for 26 yards.

Offensively, the Panthers were limited to 66 yards rushing.

On defense, strong safety LaKendrick Maxwell led the Pantherswith 8 solo tackles and 2 assists. Outside linebacker Belma Cagerhas 8 solo stops.

“We are in pretty good shape as far as injuries go,” saidPeavey.

“We have emphasized worrying about what Brookhaven does Fridaynight, not about Vicksburg. We want to avoid the mistakes. If theybeat us, it’s because they just outplayed us.”

Wayne County, coached by Marcus Boyles, used an aggressive,blitzing defense to overwhelm Vicksburg’s quarterback and unravelthe Gators.

Panther Paws: Last year Vicksburg beatBrookhaven 39-0 as senior runner Joseph Brown rushed for 129 yardsand 2 touchdowns on King Field.