Vicksburg Gators escape King Field with 55-47 win

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 8, 2003

“I’m so happy, I don’t know what to say.”

Vicksburg quarterback James Jackson was almost speechless but hesmiled broadly as the Gators huddled near the South end zone ofKing Field. Jackson had just led the Gators to a thrilling 55-47triple-overtime victory over the Brookhaven Panthers.

Jackson, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior with a cannon arm,pierced the Panthers for 418 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. Healso scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard sneak in the thirdovertime.

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After Vicksburg head coach Alonzo Stevens called for a timeout,the Gators decided to bypass the PAT kick and went for two pointsinstead. Jackson pitched out to Arthur Hicks who raced around rightend, giving his team a 55-47 margin.

Brookhaven (1-1) had won the toss and elected to go on defensefirst in overtime. The teams traded touchdowns and extra pointkicks in the first two overtimes.

Faced with an 8-point deficit, the Panthers had 4 downs from the10-yard line to answer the Gators. But a fourth down pass fromquarterback Jimmy Johns to wide receiver Bud Chatman fellincomplete and the large crowd of Vicksburg fans began celebratingthe victory. One snap earlier, a successful TD completion fromJohns to Chatman had been wiped out by a motion penalty.

Brookhaven’s sparkling new scoreboard nearly blew a fuse as theteams rang up touchdowns and points. The Panthers had taken a 19-8lead late in the first half but Vicksburg never quit. The Gatorsscored twice in the fourth quarter to gain a 33-33 deadlock at theend of regulation.

An 80-yard TD connection from Jackson to Maurice Taylor gave theGators momentum at the end of the first half. Jackson had dumped ashort pass to wide receiver Ben Shelton who pitched back to Tayloras he was being tackled.

Jermaine Owens kicked the PAT with no time showing on the clockand the Gators trailed 19-15 at halftime. The TD was set up whenVicksburg’s William Erves intercepted Brookhaven backup quarterbackBrandt Hinton in the end zone with 9 seconds left in the firsthalf.

Coach Stevens said he was happy to escape King Field with avictory. “I think there was a track meet going on tonight. Thatovertime was a shootout.

“Brookhaven has a heckuva team and they have some greatdefensive payers. We made some mistakes early but our kids playedthrough it.

“We have speed and James can throw the ball with any of them,”Stevens pointed out. James completed 19 of 30 passes, many of thembig gainers to Shelton and Taylor.

Jackson threw 4 touchdown passes in the game. Taylor caught 3touchdown passes and Ben Shelton 1. Taylor’s 49-yard TD catch tiedthe game at 33-33 with 4:30 left to play and led to the overtimeduel after a 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete.

The Gators (1-1) lost standout linebacker Rory Johnson to anankle sprain less than three minutes into the third quarter. He didnot return for the remainder of the game. Johnson had scoredVicksburg’s first TD on a 9-yard run.

Brookhaven head coach Tucker Peavey was disappointed by thesetback. “Our kids played hard and the effort was there but we gaveup some big plays. We knew Vicksburg had some really good skillplayers and we had a hard time hemming them up.”

According to overtime rules, each team had 4 downs to score fromthe 10-yard line. Brookhaven went on defense first.

In the first overtime, Jackson hooked up with Taylor on a 7-yardplay-action TD pass. The PAT by Owens put the Gators up 40-33.

Brookhaven gained a deadlock with an unusual fumble recovery.After the handoff from Johns, running back Dominique Smith fumbledat the line of scrimmage. Guard Adam Ogden scooped up the football,lumbering across the goal line. Freshman Will Thibodeaux split theuprights and it was 40-40.

In the second overtime, Jackson plunged to the 1-yard line onfirst down. Hicks scored on the next play and Owens converted for a47-40 advantage.

Brookhaven responded as Smith gained 4 yards on first down andDarius Perkins broke up the middle for the final 6. Thibodeauxconnected and it was 47-47.

In the third OT, Hicks gained 8 yards on first down. Jacksonscored on the next play, setting the stage for the 2-pointconversion run.

Johns sustained a deep thigh bruise on his right leg in thefirst half and was not at full speed for the remainder of the game.He courageously rallied the Panthers through the game, rushing 11yards for a TD. He also passed to Taurean Jones, Perkins andChatman for touchdowns.

Vicksburg got off to a shaky start, fumbling the game-openingkickoff at the Gator 16. On second down, Johns scored on a keeperaround right end and the Panthers led 7-0.

The Gators came back strong as Johnson scored on a 9-yard runpast right end. Eugene Morgan entered the game at quarterback andscored on a keeper for an 8-7 Vicksburg lead.

Brookhaven responded and regained the lead as Johns passed toPerkins from 3 yards out. The Panthers led 19-8 when Smith scoredhis first varsity TD on a 1-yard plunge.

In the third quarter, Brookhaven increased its lead to 27-15.Chatman made a leaping catch of 14 yards from Johns in the endzone. Johns found Chatman again on the 2-point conversion pass.

After Taylor raced 20 yards for a Vicksburg score, Julius Brownbroke through and blocked the extra point, leaving the scoreboardat 27-21.

Brookhaven countered on the next series as Johns rolled to hisright and threw to his left, a 5-yard toss to Taurean Jones. Aholding penalty canceled the 2-point conversion run by Perkins andBrookhaven led 33-21.

Shelton took a short pass from Jackson, cut back across themiddle and wove his way 61 yards for a TD. The PAT kick by Owenswas low and never cleared the line of scrimmage as BHS maintained a33-27 lead.

Smith provided a dazzling 43-yard kickoff return and Brookhavenneeded 3 plays to gain a first down at the Vicksburg 10. A passfrom Johns to Chatman was intercepted by Marcus Harris and returnedto the 15.

That set the stage for the 85-yard, tying TD drive. At midfield,Jackson launched a long pass to Taylor which was good for 49 yardsand the tying TD. The PAT pass by Jackson was intercepted byPanther linebacker Jason Dixon.