WC, Tide get ready for soaring temperatures

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 24, 2000

Warren Central and Picayune are similar in almost every way.

But the primary difference, depth, will likely be the biggest factor when they meet in the 37th Red Carpet Bowl Friday night at Vicksburg High.

Heat and conditioning are always the biggest concerns for coaches in the season-opener. With the sun still beaming for the 6 p.m. kickoff of the RCB’s opening game, it’s even more of a concern than usual.

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“Hopefully it’s not as hot as they say it’s going to be,” said Picayune coach Dodd Lee, whose team played Vicksburg in the first game of the RCB last year and finished strong, scoring three touchdowns in the final seven minutes to win, 44-23.

“You can’t breathe out there,” he said Wednesday. “It was 103 down here yesterday.”

Warren Central coach Robert Morgan put his team through a scrimmage at 6 two weeks ago “just so they can see what it’s like.”

He’ll try to counter the heat with numbers. WC has 71 players on its roster. Picayune has just 50.

“We’re going to have 22 ready on offense and 22 ready on defense so we can spell everybody,” Morgan said.

Playing that many will also give Morgan an idea of which underclassmen will be able to contribute this season.

“We could have five sophomores starting on defense,” Morgan said, adding with a smile, “and some of them are going to be shocked.”

Morgan doesn’t expect any shocks from Picayune.

“They have a ball-control offense, they’re aggressive on defense and their special teams are very good,” he said. “They don’t do a whole lot different, but what they do, they do well.”

Lee says the same thing about WC, which he watched for about a half last year.

“I know they’ve got a really good defensive lineman, and I expect Coach Morgan’s son to be good at quarterback,” he said, referring to last year’s Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year Thad Henderson and Brett Morgan.

Both teams lost a pair of talented running backs to graduation. A bevy of WC backs, including Perry McGee and Patrick Minor, are trying to replace Fred Gilliam and Glennial Thomas. John Hicks and Leonard Harris will be at fullback.

Picayune, which lost 1,000-yard backs Josh Carter and Clayton Bales, returns only four none of them skill players from last year’s 10-2 team that fell to George County in the first round of the playoffs. Three defensive starters are back.

“Our strength is probably our quickness on defense,” Lee said.

Morgan agreed, singling out linebacker Dominic Dowdell.

He said that Ion Oliver looks like another 1,000-yard candidate. Brandon McGill, also a standout cornerback, will get plenty of carries, too.

Another strong suit for Picayune is special teams. Punter Anthony Hobgood averaged 44 yards last year, and kicker Trey Lunsford booted a 42-yarder and consistently kicks touchbacks, Lee said. Both are juniors.

Lee said he and his players are looking forward to playing in the RCB again.

“We really enjoyed it,” he said of last year’s game. “The hospitality was impressive. All the kids want to know about is if they’ll get the T-shirts and if they’ll get to eat at Rowdy’s again.”

Morgan is eager to see how so many of his players react in their first varsity game.

“I just don’t know if we’re good yet,” he said. “I’m anxious to throw them out there and see what they do.”