By Travis Smola
The Bulldogs ended their 2016 football campaign with a 37-7 loss to Chelsea in the Division 3 district semi-final.
Vicksburg finishes the season at 7-3 overall after the early playoff exit. The loss came just a week after a blocked extra point cost the Bulldogs a chance at a possible home field advantage in a wild 14-13 regular-season heartbreaker loss on the road against rival Three Rivers.
Senior wide receiver Blake Rankin hauled in two fourth quarter passes including a 20-yarder from fellow senior Brenden Lovell with just 37 seconds left in the game to pull the score to 14-13 at Three Rivers. The subsequent extra point was blocked, but the Bulldogs got another attempt on a Three Rivers penalty.
But the Wildcats blocked the second extra point attempt as well. Head Coach Tom Marchese felt like there was a missed call on the Three Rivers defenders leaping over the lineman on the second play. “It’s unfortunate they didn’t catch it,” He said while also admitting; “we’ve got to block better.”
Before Vicksburg made its late rally, things were going totally Three Rivers’ way. “Field position was not in our favor the first half,” Marchese said.
The Wildcats led 7-0 at halftime after they capitalized on a bobbled punt attempt in the second quarter. Three Rivers took the opening drive of the second down the field before they scored again on a 7 yard pass play. The extra point made it 14-0 early in the 3rd quarter.
It wasn’t until about three minutes into the fourth quarter when Lovell finally hit Rankin wide open in the end zone for a 10-yard score to give the large Vicksburg fan turnout some hope.
The loss to Chelsea is an equally rough way for the Bulldogs to end a 2016 season that was filled with high hopes. Next year’s team will have a very different look as the Bulldogs will lose 16 seniors this season including many at key positions.
“Sometimes adversity makes us tougher,” Marchese said after the Three Rivers game. Vicksburg fans can only hope the younger players can channel this season’s late adversity into something positive next year.