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WC clinches 16th straight playoff berth with shutout

JACKSON Warren Central’s 28-0 win over Murrah Friday night was classic Viking football nothing fancy, just solid smashmouth football on offense combined with a suffocating defense.

The Vikings (8-2, 4-2 Region 2-5A), who clinched a playoff berth for the 16th straight year with the win, held Murrah (3-7, 0-6) to 184 yards in their third shutout of the season. Robert Kapp and Tyler DeRossette led the defense with 17 tackles apiece.

Offensively, WC grinded out 237 yards among five running backs and quarterback Brett Morgan.

Leonard Harris paced the ground game with 97 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries. Fullback John Hicks, nursing a sore shoulder, carried only five times but rushed for three touchdowns and converted another fourth-down carry into a first down.

“I think we blocked well and executed the plays. We just ran right up the middle, nothing fancy,” said Harris, whose third-quarter touchdown gave WC a 21-0 lead.

WC head coach Robert Morgan, whose team will face archrival Vicksburg next week, said he was happy to be back in the playoffs.

“It’s a big thing for us. We’ve been there every year I’ve been here. That’s quite an accomplishment,” he said. “This gets getting into the playoffs out of the way. It takes the pressure off of your team.”

DeRossette echoed his coach’s remarks.

“Now we’ve got a for-sure playoff spot, and we can just get ready to play Vicksburg,” he said, adding with a smile, “And you know what that is.”

WC showed it meant business early on by taking the opening kickoff and driving down the field for a touchdown. A 21-yard completion from quarterback Brett Morgan to James Judge on third-and-1 from the Murrah 34 kept the drive alive and helped set up Hicks’ first score, a 6-yard run on fourth-and-goal.

The Vikings moved the ball well in the first half, but two drives were stalled by dropped passes before a big special teams play gave them a spark.

A host of Vikings broke through the line and blocked a 35-yard field goal attempt by Murrah’s Robert Ezelle with just over six minutes left in the first half. Roderick Montgomery returned the ball to the Viking 35, and the offense took over from there.

Behind the running of Harris and Patrick Minor, who finished with 80 yards on 10 carries, WC marched 65 yards in only six plays. Hicks scored from 5 yards out to give WC a 14-0 lead.

That was more than enough for the Viking defense, which shut the Mustangs down in the second half. WC held Murrah to just 9 yards of total offense on three third-quarter drives.

Mustang quarterback DeAndrew Smith hooked up with Lance Dixon on a 51-yard pass play in the fourth quarter, accounting for most of Murrah’s 78 second-half yards.

Murrah was never close to making a game of it, but penalties cost the Mustangs two late chances at points. A holding call brought back nearly half of the yardage on Smith’s pass to Dixon.

Then, with just over three minutes to play, Murrah defensive back Marvin Gaylor intercepted a pass and went 40 yards untouched for an apparent touchdown, but an illegal block brought the play back to the Viking 22, and WC’s first-team defense returned to the field to preserve the shutout.

Robert Morgan said the penalties brought a smile to his face.

“Absolutely,” he said with a grin. “A shutout, heck, that’s big stuff.”