Nettle, Vikings ready for test at No. 7 McComb

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2000

The first time Warren Central coach Robert Morgan met Corey Nettle, the eighth-grader was “chubby and slow,” the veteran coach recalled.

Now, five years and 50 fewer pounds later Nettle is the polar opposite of that first impression. He runs the 40-yard dash in 5 seconds flat and has built himself into a stalwart on the Vikings’ defensive line.

Only now, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Nettle wished he had a few of those pounds back.

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The bigger high school offensive linemen get last week it was South Pike’s Cornelius Stallings (6-4, 315) the harder Nettle has to work.

“He’s got speed, quickness and strength, and that’s a perfect combination,” Morgan said. “He’s not big, but he’s cat-quick and the potential has always been there.”

Nettle and the No. 14 Vikings (3-0) will get their toughest test of the young season Friday at No. 7 McComb (3-0). The last time the Vikings beat a Top 10 team was Aug. 26, 1995, a 9-5 win over third-ranked Provine in the Red Carpet Bowl.

The Tigers have made it clear that the key to beating Warren Central is to take care of Thad Henderson, WC’s most dominant defensive lineman. Nettle, instead of getting down about being considered second fiddle to Henderson, loves being overlooked.

“They can’t double-team both of us,” the mild-mannered, soft-spoken Nettle said. “They block him more than me, but I like that.”

Nothing seems to bother Nettle, who said he picks up the paper first thing Saturday morning to read about the game. Henderson, the 1999 Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year, is usually a fixture in print.

That doesn’t bother Nettle.

“We’re best friends,” said Nettle, who moved to live with his father several years ago and began working out and dropping weight.

Nettle and Henderson will have to work together Friday against a McComb team that features a lightning-quick set of running backs and quarterback.

Fullback Thomas Jackson, tailback Charles Pittman, and wide receivers Antonio Barnes and Marcus Gatlin gave Morgan fits in last year’s 35-14 McComb win.

“We are going to have to be fast because (WC) looks very solid,” McComb coach Lee Bramlett said. “The defense looks very solid and the offense is scoring more points.”

The Tigers, who came back from a 14-0 deficit in last year’s meeting, came back to knock off Tylertown, 30-22, last week but needed a pair of late fumble recoveries to do so.

“We had a good game (against Hattiesburg), but turned the ball over six times and had a lot of penalties,” Bramlett said of a double-overtime win in the opener. “We have to do a better job protecting the football.”

Morgan is most excited about seeing the interest in Viking football returning to the level it was during the late 1980s and early ’90s.

“The student body and the teachers seemed to be more enthused about football season and certainly our players are and our fans are,” Morgan said. “They are ready for football and a championship, and so are we. We’ll do our best to do it.”