After 40 years, Red Carpet Bowl still putting on a show

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 28, 2002

[08/28/02]When the idea of a postseason bowl game for Vicksburg was conceived in 1962, several other cities around Mississippi also had them.

Now, 40 years after Columbus Lee and Vicksburg’s Cooper High Greenies played in the first RCB, Vicksburg’s Red Carpet Bowl is the only one left standing.

This Friday, when Warren Central and Liberty-Eylau, Texas, kickoff the 38th Red Carpet Bowl Classic, the games will mean more than just another opponent.

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“The biggest thing is, it’s a little more excitement because the community gets to watch it. Whatever school you’re from, you get to see everybody play,” said WC coach Robert Morgan, who will lead his Vikings against the team from Texarkana, Texas, at 6 p.m. “Everybody can make predictions, although it’s awfully early to be talking about that kind of stuff. At least to us it will be.”

For Vicksburg High coach Alonzo Stevens, the RCB brings back memories of the school’s last championship team in 1978. That year, the Gators beat Callaway to win the Big 8 championship.

He’ll try to link those memories with some new ones this year as he leads his top-ranked Gators against No. 7 Wayne County at 8:30 p.m.

“If you want to be a champion, you can’t be a champion and dodge the best teams,” Stevens said. “You have to play the best to realize how good you are.”

Both Liberty-Eylau and Wayne County were examples of the success of the RCB, Stevens said. Although the Red Carpet Bowl committee has found it more difficult to sign schools to two-year contracts in recent years, they are still able to draw good teams from around the state and the region.

“It’s prestigious. They used to have a bowl in Biloxi and another one up north, and the Red Carpet Bowl is the only one still standing,” Stevens said.

“That’s why good teams are always willing to come, and for a high school game, the Red Carpet Bowl committee is willing to lay it out. This is close to a college atmosphere.”

Despite the hype and excitement surrounding the season-openers, both Morgan and Stevens said the game was generally free of distractions.

“There’s not as much distraction as there would be for a regular game … It’s not distracting, it’s exciting,” Morgan said. “They do a good job as far as letting us play. We don’t even see (committee members) until Thursday. They tell us where to be and we try to be there.”

In addition to providing a good product on the field, the RCB has also given many recipients a helping hand off it. For years, parts of the proceeds from the game have helped various people throughout the area. The RCB committee also gives scholarships to students at WC, VHS and St. Aloysius.

The RCB game itself is also about hope for the teams involved. After all, all four teams playing on Friday are perfect, and state championship dreams are always plentiful this time of year.

“I hope we win the Red Carpet Bowl. That sets the pace for the fans,” VHS linebacker Johnny Daniels said.

“If we lose, no matter the outcome of the season, they’re always going to have something bad to say.”

Morgan said the RCB sends a different message to the fans and the community.

“To the community, it says football is back,” he said. “After that, we start and it’s rocking and rolling for about 10 or 12 weeks, and hopefully 12 or 15 weeks.”