NCAA Football 2022
NCAA Football 2022: Only a few yards separated Vicksburg High School and a championship. The same territory West Point has controlled and defended for the past seven years. Vicksburg lost 14-0 to West Point in the MHSAA Class 5A semis on Friday night despite having five possessions inside West Point territory (four of which were inside the 20-yard line).
In terms of offense, we were able to advance the ball effectively. According to Vicksburg’s head coach, Todd McDaniel, his team typically loses games in which they fail to score. That, sir, is Super Bowl-caliber football. There must be some benefit to enduring those. For the seventh year in a row, West Point (11-2) has been crowned Class 5A North State champion. Having defeated Gautier 49-14 in the South State final on Friday, Picayune will now face off against them in the state championship game on December 2 at 7 p.m. at Southern Mississippi M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.
Both the 5A championship game from 2021, which Picayune won, and the 2019 championship game, which West Point did win, will be rematches. Since the MHSAA started holding playoffs in 1981, West Point has reached the title game an unprecedented seven times in a row. From 2002-2010, South Panola attended nine consecutive. “It’s been inspiration all offseason long. West Point head coach Chris Chambless stated of the rematch with Picayune, “You have a fantastic season and have a nasty taste in your mouth.” Just like last year, this is exactly what transpired. We made it back, and now we’re going to do all in our power to get ready for our showdown with them.
Vicksburg, on the other hand, finished with a 10-3 record but missed out on the school’s first trip to the MHSAA championship game since the beginning of the playoffs. While competing in the former Big 8 Conference, it won a state championship in 1973. The Gators went on a 10-game winning streak, their longest since 1993, and won their first region championship since 1990. For the first time since 2001, they advanced to the playoff semi-finals.
While McDaniel’s remarks were a tiny solace in the wake of Friday’s semifinal loss, they did serve as a reminder that this team has accomplished a lot on its path to the championship. I’m overjoyed for the youngsters. The youngsters have done me proud. That’s an excellent piece of work they produced. In their last ten games, they’d only won. According to McDaniel, “not many individuals can say that.” Still, we’re aiming for a position where we can consistently win 10 or 11 games annually. This is what we hope to achieve. Our goal is to be right back where we are next year, if not a little further forward.
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Vicksburg outgained West Point 249 yards to 215 yards, but they were still behind the 8-ball the whole game. At his own 20-yard line, DeCorey Knight stumbled while trying to field a bouncing ball, and he ultimately lost possession of the ball when he was met by a wall of defenders and blockers at the 25. Branson Rainey of West Point picked it up and carried it back 25 yards for a score just 11 seconds into the game. Kahnen Daniels then ran in the 2-point conversion to give West Point an 8-0 lead. Chambless explained that he missed the action because he was off to the side chatting with an observer. Simply put, “that’s what you call hustle.”
The only other touchdown for West Point came on their first possession after halftime. The Gators were forced on their heels as the pace quickened. The final score of the game came with 7:58 remaining in the third quarter, when Keshawn Henley finished off a 12-play, 4-minute drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. An unsuccessful two-point attempt. Despite having six opportunities to score, this was the only one in which the Green Wave’s offense penetrated Vicksburg’s 25-yard line.
According to McDaniel, “we prepared for it” when West Point suddenly switched to a faster-paced approach. They struck us where we were weakest, but we expected them to. Because we anticipated that they would be an off tackle group, we were ready to deny them their off-tackle advantage by appearing stacked up in the middle. It was successful with the exception of that one drive. All night long, Vicksburg’s offensive was effective, but things started to go south once they got deep into West Point territory.
After gaining 10 yards on the opening possession thanks to a fumble return by Rainey, the Gators were forced to punt after their drive stalled. On second-and-goal from the one, Johnny Smith was stuffed for a loss of one yard. The Gators’ third, fourth, and fifth possessions of the second half all started inside the opponent’s 10-yard line but ended with field goals. To be tough when it counts, “we work on such circumstances every day in practice,” as Chambless put it. Our defense was able to rise to the challenge when put in difficult situations.
Smith rushed for 81 yards to pace Vicksburg, while Malik Montgomery added 53. Daniels ran the ball 24 times for West Point’s game-high 87 yards, while Jones carried the ball 61 times for 61 yards and Henley had 34 yards and a touchdown. It was a defensive slugfest, with the North division Class 5A champion successfully defending its championship.
Vicksburg made great strides by competing head-to-head with them for 12 rounds. Only two years had passed since its 4-8 season, and in the second round of the 2021 playoffs, it was knocked away by West Point, 42-6. McDaniel stated his primary goal for the Gators was for them to make a slightly larger leap. It’s a good thing, but if you don’t count the victory,…” McDaniel trailed off. But there’s a foundation there from which to expand. There’s nothing to do but pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and go at it again.
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How many national championships have the Florida Gators won so far?
3 national championships.