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Soggy or not, coaches ready to rumble

[8/31/2001]The toughest opponent in tonight’s Red Carpet Bowl could be without a uniform or a helmet.

Rain is expected to begin early this afternoon with the heaviest downpours forecast for about 6 p.m., according to the National Weather Service’s Web site.

That could make the field treacherous, especially for the game between No. 7 Warren Central and No. 6 Wayne County, who have to play at Viking Stadium after Vicksburg and John Ehret clash in the 6 p.m. opener.

“I don’t remember rain at the Red Carpet Bowl before,” Warren Central coach Robert Morgan said. “But I sure know that it chews up that field.”

VHS offensive coordinator Jackie Williamson said playing the first game, especially in rain, could be an advantage.

“With our 300-pounders … all over that field, it could make it bad for Warren Central and Wayne County,” he said.

The forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain tonight. Temperatures are expected to stay unseasonably cool, though, with the high forecast to reach 82 degrees. By game time, the temperature could sink as low as 76.

“That would make it nice on our big guys,” said Williamson, whose team’s offensive line averages more than 300 pounds per player. “Weather like that would help our offense and our defense. We won’t get in a bind.”

Overall, coaches said they don’t expect to change much because of the weather.

“I don’t expect a problem,” said Morgan, whose team’s trademark is its smashmouth, straight-ahead, running game. “We’ve practiced in it all.”

The game plans for the first game could also be affected.

John Ehret, a powerhouse from New Orleans, plays a wide-open offense and Vicksburg is expected to open things up as well.

Williamson said the Gators will go with what they’ve been working on.

“Our game plan is not set for one certain kind of weather,” Williamson said. “It’s set to play in anything. Unless it just gets unbelievable, we don’t plan on changing anything.”

The 18th-ranked Gators feature quarterback Justin Henry, a highly touted junior, as well as fleet-footed J.J. Brown and bruising tailback Phelan Gray.

First-year Wayne County coach Marcus Boyles said he would prefer playing in the usual summer weather.

“I really would rather play in the heat,” Boyles said. “But what can you do? I’d rather be playing in Waynesboro,” he added with a chuckle.

Wayne County, which enters the game as the No. 6 team in the state, features speedy junior quarterback Akeem Lofton, who is a threat as a runner and a passer.