Vikings take aim at Arrows, not Temple

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 19, 2002

[03/19/02]Warren Central and Clinton have always been rivals. Only this year, with the subplot of the coaching matchup between Randy Broome and Sam Temple, it’s easy to forget what makes tonight’s game at Clinton most meaningful.

With both teams 2-0 in division play, the winner will have the upper hand early in the Division 4-5A race.

That’s why Broome has told his No. 6 Vikings (14-4, 2-0 4-5A) to focus on the game and the No. 3 Arrows (13-1, 2-0), not the man coaching them, in the first of their three matchups this season.

“It’s a big district night. Someone’s going home 3-0, and someone’s going home 0-3,” Broome said, referring to the game between Vicksburg High and Forest Hill, both of which are 0-2 in division. “It’s a big ballgame, but not because it’s against their old coach.”

Still, Broome admitted that the players have been looking forward to facing the man who led them to the Class 5A state championship last year, then accepted the Clinton job. He saw it in their faces Saturday after their final game in the Tri-State Challenge in Monroe, La., in which WC went 3-1 and cranked out 31 hits in their last two games.

“After that, I told them, now you can focus on Tuesday,’ ” Broome said. “There were a lot of grins.”

The way Temple sees it, if he did his job in five seasons at WC and is doing his job at Clinton now, it could be a game for the ages.

“Anyone who knows the caliber of these two teams has to be excited,” Temple said.

“I feel like it will be a humbling experience … to be on the field with two teams I care about so much, no matter what happens,” added Temple, whose Arrows are coming off a 6-3 win at Hattiesburg where he and Broome wrapped up WC’s first state title last year.

Carl Upton, who pitched the series-clincher, will be on the mound for the Vikings. Mike Cashion (4-0, 2.74 ERA) will pitch for Clinton.

Broome said he will leave all of the hype to people outside the program.

“Carl has to throw strikes and we have to play defense behind him,” Broome said. “We just have to focus on baseball. The pitchers still have to pitch, the fielders have to play defense and the hitters have to hit.”

In fact, there will probably be less reason for pregame speeches than usual, Broome said.

“If I have to get these guys up for this game, then there’s something wrong,” he said.

The WC players say they’re excited, but they won’t be pressing.

“It’s not personal, it’s just a big district game,” said WC outfielder John Morgan Mims, who’s batting .385. “Those nine games are all that matter.”

Mims did admit that Temple could have an advantage because he knows the Vikings’ weaknesses.

But that familiarity could work in WC’s favor, too, said top hitter Brian Pettway (.514, 7 HRs).

“We know what he’s trying to do, too,” he said with a smile.

Temple has added at least one new dimension to his repertoire the Arrows have stolen 40 bases this year.

“That is something different,” he said, adding that WC didn’t have much speed during his stint.

Otherwise, his formula for success at Clinton has been much the same as it was at WC solid pitching and defense and timely hitting.

The team is batting .323, led by shortstop Joel Hurt (.396), third baseman T.J. Boler (.372) and first baseman/designated hitter Chris Duncan (.371). Catcher Tim O’Hara (.297, 2 HRs) is the team’s leader, Temple said.

“He has a big-time arm and a lot of pop,” he said.

Reliever Josh Jordan has allowed just two hits in 10 innings.

When asked if there is any advantage to knowing the WC players so well, Temple says “none,” then laughs.

“It’s what you figure out during a game, then making adjustments … that’s what matters most,” he said. “Randy is a good enough coach to have changed things up. I know I’ve changed things up.”

Broome and his players are not surprised at the success Temple is having.

“There’s always been talent there,” Broome said. “You throw a knowledgeable guy in there with some assistants who know the game, and you’re going to be successful.”

It won’t be the first time Broome and Temple have been in opposing dugouts. They met up in college, when Temple was at Delta State and Broome was at Mississippi College. They also were in opposing dugouts in 1997, when Broome was a first-year assistant at VHS and Temple was in his first year at WC.

“It’s unusual in that we’re both head coaches now,” Broome said. “When we have seen each other on the other side, it’s been big games, and that hasn’t changed.”

Temple is also looking forward to facing one of his best friends, as well as his former assistant. The two were also roommates before Temple got married.

“One of the great honors I’ll have as a coach will be shaking hands with Randy Broome as an opponent,” Temple said. “My leaving had everything to do with my future and my wife’s future.

“It also had a lot to do with a promise I made to Randy … he was ready to be a head coach.”

Still, Temple said he expects to hear the jeers from some WC fans.

“That’s OK,” he said, chuckling. “That’s why some people buy a ticket and that’s why high school baseball in Mississippi keeps getting better.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good gate … We’ll be glad to take their money.”