War Eagles focused on Vikings’ running game

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 30, 2001

[08/30/01]Wayne County coach Marcus Boyles has gone head-to-head with Robert Morgan’s Warren Central Vikings before, so he knows what to expect in the showcase game of the Red Carpet Bowl Classic.

“They are going to pound the football right at you,” said Boyles, who coached against the Vikings while he was at Pearl. “Until you show you can stop the run, they are going to slam it down your throat.”

Most of that should come from bruising fullback John Hicks.

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The returning All-County selection helps lead a Warren Central offense that will be run-oriented. But with Mississippi State-bound quarterback Brett Mogan calling the signals, the Vikings will be more multi-dimensional than last year.

“He’s a load and he runs hard,” Boyles said of Hicks, who had a county-best 13 touchdowns last year. “If he gets past the line of scrimmage, he is tough on the defensive backs.”

On paper, the game is one of the best matchups in the state. The teams are neck and neck in two preseason polls.

The Vikings, who were 9-3 last year, are No. 4 in The Clarion-Ledger and No. 7 in The Associated Press; the War Eagles, who were 10-3, are No. 3 and No. 6, respectively.

Boyles took over for Bobby Hall, who led the War Eagles to the state semifinals a season ago. They return some weapons from the team that fell just short of eventual Class 5A state champion Moss Point. Leading the way is junior Akeem Lofton, who accounted for 1,340 yards and scored 17 touchdowns in 2000.

The lightning-quick quarterback also plays wide receiver at times and is an option quarterback. He didn’t go to the air often, but when he did, he was accurate. He threw for 400 yards and seven touchdowns without throwing an interception.

“They shouldn’t do much different from what we’ve seen,” Warren Central coach Robert Morgan said. “His offensive philosophy has always been wide open. I don’t even know what his base offense is. I guess it’s an I,’ but they run out of a lot of different sets.”

Boyles said that his team will run the ball most of the time, especially if the weather forecasters are right.

Damp, humid, but unseasonably cool conditions are expected Friday night. Boyles said he would rather it be hot than rainy. Morgan said the weather wouldn’t be a factor.

“We’ve practiced in about every kind of weather,” Morgan said. “We’ve practiced in the rain and slopped through the mud and we’ve played in the heat.”

Morgan said his team, conditioning wise, is right where it should be and he expects everyone to dress out.

The War Eagles, who have had intrasquad scrimmages, are just ready to hit somebody else, Boyles said with a chuckle.

“The attitudes are good and the guys are in good shape,” Boyles said.

Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. and will follow the Vicksburg-John Ehret (La.) game, which starts at 6 p.m.

An overflow crowd is expected for what many are calling the best Red Carpet Bowl, matchup wise, in recent memory.

“There’s a little buzz (around school),” Morgan said. “But I know our players are aware of the significance of this game.

That’s for sure.”