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WC’s Morgan, VHS trio take top honors

[12/24/01]Curtis Brewer likened Robert Morgan to an old-fashioned soldier.

“A good cavalry man knows when to get off his horse and lead that’s what Coach Morgan did this year,” Brewer said.

That’s just what Warren Central needed after top Vikings started toppling at the beginning of the season. WC lost three of its top returning players in the first two weeks and had at least a dozen miss games with injuries.

Yet, the Vikings overcame a 3-4 start to make the playoffs for a Class 5A-record 17th straight year, and they went on to win their first postseason game since 1995 before finishing 8-5.

Morgan, just says “aw-shucks,” and continues the equine analogies.

“You have to go on,” he said. “You just go to the barn and get another horse.”

Actually, it wasn’t quite that easy.

Morgan kept his players and coaching staff in the saddle even when the athletes seemed to be dropping off like horseflies. Because of that, he edged first-year Vicksburg High coach Alonzo Stevens to win The Vicksburg Post Coach of the Year for the third straight season.

“I really am surprised,” said Morgan, who has won the award eight times since 1988. “This is for my staff. It was nothing I could have done alone.”

Brewer, an assistant all 17 years Morgan has been head coach, said Morgan’s selection was a no-brainer.

“He takes responsibility for bad things, so you have to give him credit for the good,” he said. “He deserves it.”

Morgan said it was the worst season in memory for injuries.

His biggest offensive lineman, Deonta Selvy, went down first; then top receiver Kacy Jones; then top tailback Pat Minor … all before the second half of the third game.

“I never had so many good players get hurt,” Morgan said. “At one time, we had 12 out.”

There was no magic formula to keep the team together, Morgan said just hard work.

“We were figuring out what moves to make, not throwing in the towel,” he said. “We reorganized practices to have more controlled scrimmages. That takes longer to prepare.

“But I never heard any complaints from any of our coaches, even when we were still here at 11 on Sunday night.”

Their perseverance paid off at the end of the season.

The Vikings put together a four-game winning streak at the end of the season, starting with a triple-overtime win over Clinton and ending with a victory over Tupelo in the first round of the playoffs. Starkville, which went on to win the Class 5A state title, ended the Vikings’ season, but only after the WC defense held the Yellowjackets to their lowest point total of the playoffs, 21-0.

“The offensive line got better as the season went on, and the defense was pretty dadgum good,” Morgan said. “They were playing hard, but we weren’t winning. You hope that they can learn while your winning.”

Their late run also included a big win over rival Vicksburg, which was the eventual North State runner-up after a 38-31 loss to Starkville.

WC just ran out of steam, Morgan said.

“It was like we were in the playoffs every week,” he said. “That’s tough on you, mentally.”

Also, the Vikings were ranked in the Top 5 in two preseason polls, which created expectations Morgan knew were unrealistic. He had the skill players back, not the offensive and defensive linemen. So, the early injuries combined with a tough schedule caused the Vikings to start 1-2, then 2-3, then 3-4. When they didn’t live up to their preseason billing, fan support fell off.

That’s where Morgan stepped in with his optimism.

“Coach Morgan is a lot like their daddies,” Brewer said. “It’s the trust they have in him. If he says keep working and it will be all right, they believe him.”

And he made good on the promise.

Though Morgan is quick to deflect the credit, when pressed, he says, “This is as hard as I ever coached … I’m as proud of this team as any I’ve ever had.”