Vikings get Liberty, not Red Carpet Bowl death

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 13, 2002

[03/09/02]After more than two months of searching for an opponent, Warren Central will play a Texas school in the 39th Red Carpet Bowl Classic.

Liberty High, a Class 3A school in Texarkana, has signed a contract to play in the Aug. 30 contest at Vicksburg Memorial Stadium. The Gators will play Wayne County, which beat Warren Central in last year’s RCBC.

“We’ve been sweating since December,” said RCBC chairman Charlie McKinnie, who got the faxed contract from Liberty coach Joe Drennon Friday morning. “We usually have somebody by January at the latest.”

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The Leopards finished 7-3 last year and didn’t make the playoffs. The Vikings made it to the second round of the playoffs and finished 8-5.

McKinnie said that RCBC committee member Briggs “Bubba” Hopson Jr. “did most of the legwork” to find an opponent.

“He’s been on the Internet for hours, looking at every open date out there,” he said. “In-state, it’s just hard to find someone that wants to play. A lot of teams turned us down. We have a reputation … it’s a challenge to come over here.”

Coaches often want to play easier opponents in their first game of the season. Also, it’s become increasingly difficult to get teams to sign two-year contracts and give up those home gate receipts, McKinnie said. Liberty signed a one-year contract and Wayne is in the second year of a two-year contract.

“We discussed moving it to the second or third game of the season,” McKinnie said. “We were getting down to the wire.”

McKinnie said the search branched out to Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, and even teams from Pensacola, Fla., and California were considering coming.

He said that Vicksburg Warren athletic director Lum Wright Jr., helped secure the deal.

“He has some contacts in Texas from his coaching days over there,” McKinnie said.

A matchup with Gulfport fell through when the Admirals got a new coach, McKinnie said, and the new Ridgeland high school declined an offer to play in the RCBC.

It will be the first time a Texas team has played in the RCBC.

Warren Central coach Robert Morgan said he was happy to play against a team from Texas, which is considered the hotbed of high school football.

“That will be exciting,” he said. “It will give us a chance to see how we stack up against them. That will be interesting.”