Morgan-Williams TD wins classic;Starkville next up

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 23, 2001

Andrew Patton of WC swoops in on Tupelo’s Ron Evans as Antonio Brown pulls him down in the fourth quarter.(The Vicksburg Post/C.TODD SHERMAN)

[11/18/01]With time running down in their first-round playoff game against Tupelo and their offense driving, the Warren Central Vikings were looking for a game-winning field goal.

What they got was a classic finish to a classic game.

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WC quarterback Brett Morgan hit Jason Williams on a deep post pattern for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds to play, giving the Vikings (8-4) a 23-17 victory and their first playoff win since 1995.

WC will travel to face Starkville, a 42-14 winner over Clinton, in the second round next week.

Richmond Fields rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown for WC, while Morgan was 10-of-16 passing for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Carlton Bradford caught four passes for 53 yards and a score, and the Viking defense held Tupelo’s 1,300-yard rusher Davious Gillespie to only 75 yards on 21 carries.

“It feels good. We ain’t been to the second round in a while,” said WC cornerback Chris Hemphill, who had two interceptions, including one that sealed the win on Tupelo’s final, last-gasp drive. “I’m fixing to go home and lay down and just dream about it.”

The game was tied 3-3 at halftime, but both offenses exploded in the second half. WC scored on three of five second-half possessions, while Tupelo (8-4) scored on two of five possessions and nearly scored again to tie the game after Morgan’s pass to Williams.

After a short kickoff gave Tupelo the ball at its 42, Golden Wave quarterback Will Kline hit wide receiver Cooper Morgan on a deep pass down the left sideline on second-and-10. But Morgan, who had beaten Hemphill, bobbled the pass and couldn’t haul it in. Morgan stayed down for a moment before slamming his fist on the ground and walking slowly back to the sideline.

“He nearly had the football, but nearly doesn’t count,” Tupelo coach Phil Ferguson said.

Hemphill said he missed his assignment.

“I thought I was supposed to take the flat and he blew right by me … I’m going to have nightmares about it,” Hemphill said.

On the next play, Hemphill atoned for his mistake by grabbing his second interception of the game, sealing the win with six seconds left.

“I almost just stopped running. It seemed like it was never going to get to me,” Hemphill said.

WC had pounded on the Tupelo line all night, but didn’t have much to show for it until the first minute of the fourth quarter. After Hemphill’s first interception gave WC the ball at its 12-yard line, tailback Richmond Fields broke through the left side and outran the Tupelo defense for an 80-yard touchdown to give the Vikings their first lead of the game, 17-10, with 11:17 left in the game.

“We hoped not to give up the big one, and we did give up the big one and it hurt us,” Ferguson said.

Tupelo answered right back, however, driving 52 yards in 12 plays to tie it on Kline’s second 1-yard TD run of the game with 4:36 to play. The Golden Wave converted two third downs and one fourth down on the drive.

The Vikings then got the ball back on their own 24 with 4:29 left and embarked on the game-winning drive. They quickly advanced to the Tupelo 40 before bogging down. An end-around to Roderick Montgomery netted 4 yards on third-and-five, and John Hicks got about a half yard on fourth-and-inches to keep the drive alive.

Brett Morgan then threw incomplete on first down and completed a short pass to Henry Williams on second down, leaving the Vikings with third-and-6 on the Tupelo 31 with under a minute to play.

Another short pass would have put the Vikings in range for a field goal, but Tupelo doubled Bradford on a short out pattern. That left Jason Williams with single coverage on the deep route, and Morgan delivered a perfect pass inside the 5. Williams caught it over the Tupelo defender, shook him and walked into the end zone.

“The play was called for Carlton, and they jumped Carlton and I saw Jason had his man beat. I put it up there were Jason could make the play on it,” Morgan said. “When I threw it, I couldn’t see him catch the ball. I just heard the fans go crazy … It was an unbelievable feeling.”

Williams, who had been called for a false start earlier in the game, said it felt good to make up for the penalty in such a big way.

“I knew I had been messing up. They came to me and I wanted to do good,” he said.

After the game, Kline and the Tupelo players simply stood and stared at the Vikings’ celebration about 30 yards away. Many were crying, and Kline never even went into the postgame huddle.

“It was a dogfight, but they just made a few more plays than we did,” Ferguson said. “It hurts like crazy, because I know these kids left it out there.”

The Vikings, meanwhile, will play after Thanksgiving for the first time in a long time. They’ll travel to No. 2 Starkville on Friday to face a team that eliminated them from the playoffs four times in five years between 1995 and 1999, including three times in the first round.

“Tupelo beat us at home the last time we played them, so maybe we can go up there to Starkville and change a little history and make a little bit of our own history,” Brett Morgan said. “I’ll tell them this we may be little, but we’re going to fight them sons-of-guns until they bleed in the nose. We’re going to fight them sons-of-guns teeth-to-teeth and toe-to-toe, and may the best man win.”