Vikings losing offensive leaders, returning top tacklers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 6, 2001

[12/6/01]One thing can be said about Warren Central’s football season: Never count out the Vikings, no matter what.

A preseason Top 5 team, the Vikings were ravaged by injuries early in the year, then, on the brink of a losing season, rebounded to make the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs.

“That’s a credit to the players and the entire coaching staff,” WC head coach Robert Morgan said. “When their backs are against the wall is when they are at their best.”

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In the last weeks of the season, the Vikings were at their best.

A crucial loss to Forest Hill on Sept. 28 put the Vikings at 2-3 and made making their 17th straight playoff appearance a longshot at best.

“After we lost to Forest Hill, every game was a playoff for us,” Morgan said. “Every week we had to win to get in, then when we got in, we had to win to stay in. We were in the playoffs for about six weeks and that wears and tears on you.”

A rain-soaked win against Callaway followed, but another Region 2-5A loss to Madison Central in which QB Dillon Sudduth had his best game of the season gave WC two region losses with games against Clinton and high-flying Vicksburg left.

“We didn’t have many good things going for us early, but if you hang around there long enough, things will turn around,” Morgan said.

“There’s two things I’ve learned is that, win or lose, you don’t read the paper in the morning and after the game is over, you look at the tape and throw it away.

“You don’t look back. Every day is a new day and that’s how you have to coach.”

After the Madison game, the breaks that had gone against the Vikings started falling their way.

Clinging to a one-touchdown lead at Northwest Rankin, the Vikings caused and recovered a fumble inside the 1-yard line to secure a 17-10 win.

An emotion-filled, three-overtime thriller against Clinton followed.

The Vikings trailed most of the game, but Brett Morgan connected with Roderick Montgomery on a 10-yd TD pass to not only get WC back into playoff contention, but to virtually secure a postseason berth.

A blowout of Murrah followed, then a shocking blowout of crosstown rival Vicksburg gave the Vikings the region’s No. 2 seed.

They followed with a playoff win over Tupelo before being shut out against Starkville, which will play for the 5A state crown on Friday night.

“Of course we wish we could have gone farther, we always do,” Robert Morgan said. “We can’t let that keep us down, we have to start working toward next season.”

In the regular season, all of WC’s losses were by an average of nine points. Two of the teams that beat the Vikings Class 4A South Pike and Starkville are playing for state titles in their respective classes. Vicksburg reached the North State finals.

Eight of the 13 opponents this year made it to the playoffs and in games following a loss, the Vikings were 4-0.

“We had 12 seniors healthy when the season ended, but those guys hung in there every game and fought,” Robert Morgan said.

Workouts and physical tests have begun at WC and Morgan said he likes what he sees coming back.

Tailback Richmond Fields was one of the underclassmen who turned it up a notch at the end of the season. He led the team in rushing.

WC loses Brett Morgan, a Mississippi State-bound quarterback and team leader, and its best receiver and lineman. Carlton Bradford, who led the county with 574 receiving yards and six touchdowns, will be hard to replace at wideout. Josh Brogdon held a depleted offensive line together. Fullback John Hicks will also be missed.

The good news, though, is the two leading tacklers will return. Tyler DeRossette had a gaudy 160 tackles and fellow inside linebacker Andrew Patton had 154. Both will be seniors next year.

A tough-as-usual schedule will greet WC as it tries to extend the playoff streak to 18 straight seasons.

“I’ve said that 90 percent of football is spirit and desire, and if your team has that, it can win a lot of football games,” Robert Morgan said. “I think this group of players proved that this year.”