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Vikings ready for wide-open Natchez

Warren Central defensive back Otis Stamps runs a defensive drill during Vikings’ practice on Wednesday. Stamps, who has two interceptions this season, will be busy defending Natchez’s wide-open offense. (Brian LodenThe Vicksburg Post)

[9/17/04]Warren Centrals defense will be busy tonight.

The Vikings travel to Natchez to face a team whose offense is as unpredictable as any the Vikings will see this season.

The Bulldogs (1-2) are known to run five wide receiver sets, full-house backfields and everything in between.

None of it has seemed to work so far for first-year coach Lance Reed. Natchez is coming off a 52-6 thumping at the hands of Vicksburg last week, and one week earlier lost 54-18 to South Pike.

“They are a very solid team that plays well on both sides of the ball,” Reed said of WC. “The key for us is whether we execute or not.”

WC coaches were concerned about the Bulldogs’ offense, even though the results have been less than favorable. In Natchez’s lone win, the team beat Port Gibson, 39-38.

“Someone once said, There’s a Buster Douglas standing around every corner,'” said WC coach Curtis Brewer, comparing Natchez to the heavyweight fighter who beat Mike Tyson for the first time. “You better be looking out with the type offense they run. If you don’t have good coverage or contain the quarterbacks, they can hurt you.”

WC enters the game seething from a loss to South Pike last week. WC (2-1) held a lead late in the fourth quarter, but a punt return for a TD lifted the Eagles.

“We went over some of the things we made mistakes on, went over some formations,” Brewer said. “We didn’t scrimmage or brow-beat them. I just don’t think it’s something you want to do at this point.”

WC brought the state’s No. 8 ranking into last week’s game, but tumbled seven spots in the polls this week. This will also be the last game before Region 2-5A action starts next week.

The Warren Central defense is used to quality performances. The team forced eight turnovers in a 29-0 win over McComb, and held Southaven in the opening game of the season three times inside the 5-yard line.

Led by hard-hitting linebackers Chico Hunter and Jesse Pedyfoot and sophomore safety Michael “Tiger” Robinson, the defense is giving up only 10 points per game.

“We’re not planning on doing anything different,” Reed said. “We’ve had some very good practices and are displaying good character. Hopefully, the kids will respond to the challenge.”

Natchez quarterback Jason Bruce threw a TD pass in the Vicksburg loss that gave the visitors a 6-0 lead before watching the Gators reel off 52 unanswered points. VHS’ defense held Natchez to 2 rushing yards.

“They are a capable team, but I really feel like Warren Central has to worry about Warren Central,” Brewer said. “If we do what we’re supposed to do week-in and week-out, we’ll be all right.”

For Natchez, a team that suffered through a three-year stretch of winning only two games, a win over Warren Central would be a program saver.

“It would do wonders for our confidence,” Reed said.