Vikings’ young defense shines in debut

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Warren Central’s Jamie Blok, right, tackles Gulfport running back Jeremy Walker during the Vikings’ 17-7 win in the Red Carpet Bowl. Blok and a young WC defense kept the pass-happy Admirals in check all night Friday. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

[09/01/2003] Heading into the season-opener against Gulfport, one of the biggest questions for Warren Central was how its young defensive backs would do against Gulfport’s pass-oriented offense.

The answer came through loud and clear: pretty darn well.

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Sophomore Victor “Chico” Hunter made the biggest play of the night, a 48-yard interception return for the go-ahead touchdown in a 17-7 WC win, but the rest of the secondary also played well.

Junior Donald Neal broke up two potential touchdown passes in the first quarter, and the secondary forced two fourth-quarter fumbles at the end of long pass plays to help preserve the victory.

Senior cornerback Otis Stamps also had an interception and recovered the last fumble, with 4 seconds to play, to put an exclamation point on the win.

“We did good. We did great. We’ve got a good pass defense and hopefully we’ll win a lot of games,” Hunter said. “I was shaky the first half, then came out the second half and got my mind right and did what I had to do.”

The Viking secondary kept Gulfport off-balance all night, and managed to bend but not break under an unrelenting aerial assault.

Three Gulfport quarterbacks combined to complete 16 of 38 passes for 220 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Adam Carlson was the Admirals’ leading passer, going 12-for-26 for 170 yards.

While Gulfport’s total passing yardage was fairly large, the Admirals averaged only 5.8 yards per attempt and dropped a half-dozen passes. Gulfport also ran for just 45 yards on 24 carries, relying on the passing game for the bulk of its offense.

The Admirals were able to move the ball at times, with four drives ending in WC territory. Gulfport turned the ball over on each of its last three possessions, however all in the fourth quarter and missed a 45-yard field goal on its opening drive of the game.

Gulfport scored on second foray into Viking territory, but not before extending itself to third-and-goal and using all of its timeouts. Shabazz McClellan finally hit Lorenzo Duckworth on a screen pass for a 2-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 11:04 to play in the second quarter.

The lead lasted until the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, when Hunter stepped in front of a receiver and returned the interception for the go-ahead score.

“We’ve got three quarterbacks that are trying to learn the system, and they did a pretty good job. They just made some mistakes tonight,” Gulfport coach Joey D’Angelo said after the game.