Vikings’ young players shine in Tide shutout

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 25, 2000

Omar Jackson knocks the helmet off Picayune’s Curtis Coleman on a 13-yard gain early in the third quarter. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

Leonard Harris ran for two touchdowns and underclassmen stood out at every position as Warren Central shut out Picayune, 30-0, Friday night in the opening game of the 37th Red Carpet Bowl.

“We played a lot of people because we had to,” WC coach Robert Morgan said, referring to the scorching August sun beaming down on the field for the 6 p.m. kickoff. “We had a lot of sophomores and a lot of juniors out there playing for the first time.”

They responded by making the biggest plays of the game.

WC took advantage of several mistakes by the Maroon Tide, which finished 10-2 last year, cashing in two turnovers for touchdowns.

Picayune marched to the WC 18-yard line on its opening possession, but Jeffrey Watkins, a junior, blocked Trey Lunsford’s 35-yard field goal attempt after a mishandled snap. He recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter.

Junior fullback John Hicks capped a 13-play, 67-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown near the end of the first quarter. Sophomore Patrick Minor, who led WC with 61 yards on nine carries, had a 24-yard scamper on first-and-25 to keep the drive going.

After Todd Monsour’s 22-yard field goal made it 9-0, sophomore Omar Jackson stripped the ball from Curtis Coleman on a kickoff return and recovered. Five plays later, Harris followed lineman Thad Henderson into the end zone from a yard out. Monsour’s PAT made it 16-0 at the half.

“We just turned it over too much in critical situations,” Picayune coach Dodd Lee said. “You just can’t turn it over that much against a team like Warren Central.”

Picayune’s Ion Oliver, who led all rushers with 135 yards on 22 carries, fumbled on the Tide’s first play of the second half and WC junior Stewart Lott fell on it.

Five plays later, Minor scored on a 14-yard run, which followed Hicks’ 20-yard gain up the middle.

On WC’s next possession, the Vikings went 59 yards in two plays. Jackson dragged defenders with him up the middle for 13 yards, the Harris went off tackle for a 47-yard touchdown, putting an end to the scoring with 4:13 left in the third quarter.

Sophomore defensive end Tyler DeRossette, in his first varsity start, led WC with 15 tackles. Joseph Williams, another sophomore end, recorded nine. Corey Nettle, who also had a fumble recovery, had 10 tackles and Tommy London and Thad Henderson had eight apiece. Jonathan Gardner made a leaping interception in the front corner of the end zone near the end of the first half to help preserve the shutout.

“They just knocked us off the ball all night,” Lee said.

Picayune’s top back, Dominic Dowdell, was injured early. Asked if he would have made a difference, Lee laughed, and said,”No.”

WC quarterback Brett Morgan completed just 3 of 11 passes for 49 yards, but several catchable balls were dropped, including two that could have been touchdowns. Sophomore Kacy Jones caught a 28-yarder on third-and-9 to set up Monsour’s field goal and Carlton Bradford made a pair of tough grabs.

The Tide outgained WC on the ground, 229 yards to 201, and in the air (60-49), but the Vikings didn’t commit a turnover.

“I’m very proud of the guys,” Coach Morgan said, noting that five sophomores started on defense. “We know we’ve still got to grow and get better for next week.”