Vikings finally overcome Starkville

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 18, 2002

[11/16/02]STARKVILLE The Yellowjacket is off Warren Central’s back.

After being eliminated from the Class 5A state playoffs five of the last seven years by Starkville (9-3), the Vikings used a crushing defense to advance to advance to the second round with a 16-9 win in sloppy, windy Yellowjacket Stadium.

“This is a big one,” said running back Richmond Fields, who chewed up the Starkville defense for 165 yards on 20 carries and a 57-yard touchdown. “When you think you stopped us, we’re gonna put something on you.”

Now the Vikings have a chance to spend the rest of the playoffs at home. Thanks to Clinton’s loss, the Vikings will host Southaven on Friday night. It’s the second straight season Warren Central advanced to the second round, but last season the Vikings were beaten at Starkville.

“With them beating us five out of the last seven years, this feels spectacular,” WC linebacker Vaughn Mims said. “I just prayed that all that bad stuff that’s been happening, something good would come out of it. We’ve got one step of our goal.”

WC trailed 9-7 at the half, but a strong surge at the start of the second half vaulted WC forward. Electing to kick off in both the first and second halves something Morgan has done several times this season Warren Central turned the game around in an instant.

Henry Williams returned a Will Sneed pass 26 yards for a touchdown on the Yellowjackets’ third play, but Will Clark’s extra point was blocked and WC held a 13-9 lead with 10:33 left in the third quarter.

“I just saw the ball coming and I knew I had it,” Williams said. “I just took it and ran.”

Williams came up big again less than three minutes later when he recovered a Sneed fumble. WC’s offense was stopped, but Clark came on to nail a career-long 50-yard field goal, which easily sailed through the uprights, for a 16-9 lead midway through the third.

Starkville drove right back down the field thanks in part to a 40-yard run up the middle by Demarcus Hogan to the WC 4. The Yellowjackets reached the 2-yard line, but on fourth down, Sneed’s pitch sailed wide of running back Xavier Collier and WC took over.

Running out of a power-I for the first time this season, WC moved the ball from their own 5-yard line to the Starkville 18. Fields ran for 54 yards on the drive.

Facing a fourth down at the 18 and into a strong wind, Clark’s 35-yard field goal sailed left at the last second to keep the lead at 7.

Starkville had one last shot after stopping WC on a fourth-and-1 at the Jackets’ 18 with 3:04 left.

With no timeouts, the Jackets drove to the WC 39 behind six Sneed completions. Linebacker Tyler DeRossette broke up a pass, Williams tackled Sneed behind the line and on fourth down, Sneed’s pass attempt to Ben Rush fell to the muddy turf.

WC quarterback Jeremy Ferguson sank to a knee on the first WC play ending the game.

“Warren Central lined up and had a heckuva game plan tonight,” first-year Starkville coach Ronnie Cuevas said. “We had too many turnovers and mistakes, but we’re not making excuses. They lined up and ran it down our throats.”

After a brief on-field celebration, the Vikings acknowledged a fan-base that easily outnumbered the hosts’ fans.

Then they made plans for next week.

“This is more than I expected,” Williams said. “It’s just good to play at home.”

Collier started the scoring on the opening drive that saw Starkville move the ball 63 yards on 8 plays. He plunged in from 1-yard out. Tom Corbin blocked Zach Bost’s extra point for a 6-0 lead.

After a WC punt, Starkville again drove to the WC 12, but Andrew Patten recovered the first of the turnovers. He returned the ball to the 40 and two plays later, Fields burst around end for a 57-yard touchdown the longest play from scrimmage for either team.

Bost kicked a 27-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the half for a 9-7 Starkville lead.