WC coaches only similarity to ’93 game with Panola
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2000
The venue isn’t as big and the players don’t have as much star power this time, but whenever Warren Central and South Panola get together, it rekindles memories of 1993.
The two meet in the first round of the state playoffs in Batesville Friday night. The only similarity is the core of the Vikings’ coaching staff, which has been together for 16 seasons and made the playoffs every year.
Defensive coordinator Curtis Brewer and assistant coaches Larry Tyrone, Rick Graham and Morris Johnson have been roaming the sideline of Viking Stadium since Robert Morgan was hired as head coach in 1985.
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“It’s just like a family,” Morgan said. “We like each other, trust each other and are very serious about what we do.”
They were all there when Warren Central lost to South Panola, 42-28, in what is considered one of the best state championship matchups ever, Morgan said.
The Vikings, behind superstars Brian Darden, Thad Bridges, James Jones, Rob Morgan, James Williams, Kevin Prentiss, Calvert White, Eric Payne and so on played a South Panola team loaded with stars as well.
Dwayne Rudd, who plays for the Minnesota Vikings, Deshea Townsend (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Malikia Griffin (Ole Miss) starred for South Panola.
Both teams entered the game at 14-0, but a blocked punt, four fumbles and a pair of interceptions put off the Vikings’ state championship bid. Darden rushed for an eye-popping 196 yards on 13 carries.
On Friday, the two teams will meet again albeit under different circumstances. The Vikings and Tigers enter the first-round matchup minus the star power of the 1993 game and without the rankings. The Vikings (9-2) are No. 10 in The Associated Press poll and South Panola (6-4) is not ranked.
Though the players have changed WC is more of a blue-collar, starless team, like the 1988 squad that won the state championship the coaches have stayed the same. They helped get revenge in 1995, when WC beat the Tigers at Viking Stadium in the first round of the playoffs.
At South Panola, there have been changes. Willis Wright, who won three state championships two at Starkville and one with the Tigers is now at North Delta.
Ed Stanley now coaches South Panola, and “he’s won a state championship since then and we haven’t,” Morgan said.
Several of the South Panola coaches, Morgan said, were holdovers from the Wright era.
Morgan said there is no better place to work than Warren Central. That is why the coaches stick around for so long.
“In my opinion, this is the best football coaching job in the state,” Morgan said. “I’m biased about it, but this is a good job. We have a lot of coaches stay here for a lot of years.”
Morgan quickly added that his staff is filled with veteran coaches, but a group of young coaches is a strength.
“Our staff does have a bunch of old hands on it, but it also has some good young guys,” Morgan said. “They are a smart staff and luckily most of those guys played for us and they know what the program is about.”