Emotional Vikings open playoffs tonight

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Warren Central soccer coach Jay Harrison talks to his team during Monday’s practice.(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[1/27/04]When the Warren Central boys soccer team takes the field tonight in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs, it will cap an emotional 10-day roller coaster for the team and coach Jay Harrison.

Ten days ago, Harrison’s wife, Sally, gave berth to twins more than three months premature. Hayden and Hank Harrison have been in Baptist Medical Center in Jackson since and will be there for at least three more months.

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“This has been the most emotional time in my life. It really puts things in perspective,” said Harrison, whose children are in stable condition at the hospital. “All I can do is thank God things have gone well so far and hope they continue to go well.”

Harrison has juggled trips to Jackson around the team’s soccer success, which has brought with it a 12-5-1 record, a division championship and home playoff game tonight.

“I told them in the locker room that everything they have achieved this year is because of their ability and hard work, not because of what happened to me,” Harrison said. “All the credit the shutouts, the most wins since I’ve been here goes to them. It’s their hard work that has gotten them here.”

The Vikings will entertain Ocean Springs in the first round of the playoffs today at Viking Stadium. A win would set up a possible second-round matchup with Oak Grove.

“They are a good team,” said senior Allen Carlisle of the Greyhounds. “We have to play hard and work together.”

Harrison said the Greyhounds, a team that beat Oak Grove, will bring a defensively savvy team that tends to struggle on offense.

“I had the Pascagoula coach tell me they had a great keeper, but have no real threat on offense,” Harrison said. “But it’s hard to tell because you don’t know how good Pascagoula is. I feel like we have a very good shot.

“On paper, the matchup is great, but you still have to lace them up and play.”

The Vikings, meanwhile, have one of the top defensive units in the state, having recorded nine shutouts in their 12 wins, and only losing one game by more than one goal.

Following the game, Harrison will continue his daily ritual of driving to Jackson to be with the twins.

The road trips have not taken anything away from his coaching, although he looks at his job a little differently.

“Once you get out here with the guys and they’re laughing and joking, it gives you an opportunity to stay away from the problems and focus on what you have to do,” Harrison said. “It helps to be around these guys. They’ve been very supportive.”

Vicksburg High’s girls will also be battling Ocean Springs tonight as the Missy Gators begin their quest for a sixth state championship.

Brandi Parker, the state’s leading career goals scorer, is questionable for the game with a knee injury. She has missed the last three games and was supposed to see time on Saturday against Pearl, but the game was rained out.

Vicksburg last won a state title two years ago and reached the North State championship game last season.

Vicksburg’s boys and Warren Central’s girls will travel to Pascagoula for the first round of their state playoffs today. The girls are set to begin at 5:30 p.m. and the boys will follow.