Hemphill, Hicks deliver knockout blows for WC

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 12, 2001

[11/12/01]Chris Hemphill and John Hicks celebrated by hoisting heavyweight championship belts over their heads.

That was fitting considering that they delivered two of Warren Central’s biggest knockdown punches in Friday night’s 27-14 win over archrival Vicksburg High.

With VHS driving, Hemphill stripped the ball from Quentin Miles at midfield near the end of the half with WC leading 10-0.

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So instead of the Gators getting a chance to pull within three, the Vikings tacked on another Hunt Gilliland field goal at the end of the half to take a 13-0 lead.

“That might have been as big as John’s run,” WC defensive coordinator Curtis Brewer said.

The run he was referring to was midway through the fourth quarter, with WC still clinging to a 13-0 lead. On fourth and about an inch to go, Hicks, a 230-pound fullback nicknamed “Train,” chug-chugged through the VHS front for a momentum-killing 48-yard TD.

“They kept on saying, Where’s the Train,’ and I said, I’m pounding on you,’ ” Hicks said with a laugh.

“The Train came through. They just didn’t know I had a Caboose,” he added, referring to tailback Richmond Fields.

Hicks had a parting shot for VHS fullback Phelan “Bus” Gray, who engaged Hicks in a war of words leading up to the game.

“I didn’t see no Bus, did you? All I saw was a trolley,” Hicks said as teammates laughed and celebrated.

There was a party-like atmosphere in the WC locker room after beating the Gators for the 20th time in 21 years.

It was sweeter than most, considering the injuries and adversity WC had to overcome. Midway through the season, it appeared that the Vikings may not have a winning season or make it to the postseason for a 5A-record 17th straight year, much less host a playoff game.

“This bunch has been pushed and shoved … but they fought back with red-hat tradition,” Brewer said. “They did a tremendous job of putting all of the hoopla aside, and that’s a compliment to this team and (head coach) Robert Morgan.”

Now, it’s back to business for WC, which beat the Gators and earned the right to host Tupelo in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs Friday night.

“We’ve got to stop the celebration right here,” quarterback Brett Morgan said while walking off the field. “We’ve got to concentrate on Tupelo from here on out. We’ve set ourselves where we wanted to be … We can’t lose focus now.”

The Gators, on the other hand, got some momentum headed into their first-round playoff game at Columbus. They scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to avoid their 10th shutout in the 21-year series with WC.

“We have to put this behind us and get back to work (today),” VHS coach Alonzo Stevens said.

Hemphill said he didn’t realize how big his play was when it happened.

VHS backup quarterback Arthur Hicks, who started in place of the injured Justin Henry, completed a 10-yard pass to Miles at midfield with 1:35 to go in the half and the Gators trailing 13-0.

Miles was fighting for extra yardage when Hemphill reached in and stripped the ball.

“He was surrounded and I saw that he was kind of holding the ball funny,” Hemphill said. “I pulled it right out.”

The Gators’ high-octane offense was still within striking distance, trailing 13-0 in the fourth quarter, when Brett Morgan intercepted Henry deep in VHS territory.

WC’s offense seemed to have sputtered against VHS’ fired-up defense at midfield when the Vikings decided to go for it on fourth-and-short.

With the Gators crowding the box, John Hicks barreled his way past the line of scrimmage and went untouched the rest of the way to the end zone.

“All of the credit goes to my offensive line,” said Hicks, who finished with 111 yards on 20 carries while Fields had 125 yards on 14 carries. “They’ve really stepped up and come together.”

The Gators had other opportunities, but the turnovers proved to be too much.

Tyler DeRossette intercepted a Henry pass one play after Hicks’ TD. That set up Fields’ 46-yarder a minute later.

“It was just luck I guess,” said DeRossette, who also had an interception against VHS last year. “It was the exact same play.”

And the exact same outcome.