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Jackson brings Horn Lake run game into Viking Stadium

Warren Central’s Larry Warner runs for some of his 124 yards in the Vikings’ 35-6 win over Vicksburg on Friday night (Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[11/14/03]Three weeks ago, Clinton dealt Warren Central its first loss in Region 2-5A.

With Grenada and Vicksburg still on the schedule, it appeared the Vikings might eek their way into the playoffs. Instead, Warren Central reeled off a pair of impressive victories and finds itself with a region title and a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The Vikings (8-3) host Horn Lake (5-5), the fourth seed from Region 1, tonight at Viking Stadium at 7 p.m.

WC coach Robert Morgan can’t help but reflect upon the loss to Clinton, because he thinks Horn Lake looks very similar to the Arrows.

“They’re a powering team, like a Clinton or somebody that just keeps running at you,” Morgan said. “Right now we’re having trouble with that because we’re just not very big and physical up front.”

The Eagles, sitting at 5-5, have won four consecutive games to earn a playoff spot. They have done so behind the play of Brandon Jackson one of the top running backs in the state.

“He provides us with a lot of possibilities in what we do with our packages,” Horn Lake coach Larry Gann said. “He’s also a good receiver when we move him out to the slot.”

Jackson combines 4.4 second speed with the power to run over linebackers. He rushed for more than 1,700 yards last season, but has been held to 845 this year. The reasons for his decline in numbers have been youth on the offensive line and at quarterback coupled with the team’s need to pass early in its losses, the coach said.

“The tailback is the kind of runner like Larry Warner, except he weighs 200 pounds. You don’t just push him down,” Morgan said.

Quarterback Gavin Ellis leads Horn Lake’s capable passing game after learning the offense early in the season.

Ellis’ progress showed in last week’s 33-29 win against Southaven in which he connected with receiver Andrew Harris for three touchdowns two of them late in the fourth quarter.

“He’s improved weekly,” Gann said. “The offense and terminology were new to him.

“He played strong safety for us last year, so he didn’t see any time at quarterback for a year.”

Had it not been for a 17-7 loss to Starkville, Horn Lake might not be here at all.

With Starkville leading 10-7, Horn Lake dropped a pass in the endzone in the fourth quarter that could have won the game. Although it was a crushing blow, Gann said it helped his team come together.

“We got better,” he said. “A lot of confidence came from that Starkville game because we saw we could win. We started to make plays at critical times.”

A bonus for Warren Central may come from Horn Lake’s defense, which has allowed 27 points per game this season. Even in the last four wins, they gave up more than 20 points a contest.

Although his defense knows what to expect from Morgan, Gann said stopping Larry Warner and the Vikings’ offense is easier said than done.

“It looks like the same scouting report I had when I was at Clinton in 1987,” Gann said with a laugh. “It’s just new people doing it with some new wrinkles.”

The Vikings have come a long way this season, thanks in large part to Warner. Since emerging as a starter after an injury to Fred Payne, Warner has run for 914 yards with nine touchdowns in five games.

“They’ve overcome their youthfulness with hustle and hard play. We’ve gotten better every week, and right now they’re a pretty good team,” Morgan said. “Offensively, we just need to keep doing what we’re doing and do it better.”