Defense, special teams spark Vikings

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 21, 2004

Warren Central’s Fred Payne outruns Murrah defenders during the Vikings’ 33-12 victory on Friday night. (Meredith SpencerThe Vicksburg Post)

[10/19/04]During the fourth quarter of Warren Central’s 33-12 win over Murrah last Friday, WC safety Chico Hunter shouted some words of encouragement to running back Larry Warner as Warner was about to head back onto the field.

As he buckled his chinstrap, Warner shook his head and gave Hunter some words of his own.

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“No, man, it’s your night,” Warner said.

For the second straight week, WC’s defense and special teams propped up a sluggish offense and led the Vikings to victory. The defense forced four turnovers, scored nine points on its own, and recovered a fourth-quarter fumble that led to a short game-sealing touchdown drive.

The special teams set up two short touchdown drives with long kick returns and put points on the board with a Joey Bonelli field goal in the first quarter.

The other two phases of the game carried the Vikings on a night when Warner was held to a season-low 45 yards, and the offense managed just 231 total yards. Using the short field provided by the defense and special teams, the offense had four scoring drives that totaled 77 yards.

“The defense had to step up tonight. It was a good time to step up,” Hunter, who had eight tackles and two interceptions against Murrah, said after the game Friday. “Like I said earlier in the year, the defense is going to score points.”

Just like it had the previous week against Madison Central, when it pitched a shutout over the final two quarters, the WC defense rose to the occasion in the second half Friday.

Desmond Carson sacked Murrah quarterback Erick Collins for a safety on the first series of the third quarter, giving WC a 12-6 lead. Otis Stamps who plays cornerback when he isn’t returning kicks brought the ensuing free kick back to the Murrah 24-yard line.

Warner scored on a 12-yard run two plays later, giving WC a 19-6 lead and effectively putting the game out of reach. Murrah managed a late score and threatened to add another touchdown after recovering an onsides kick, but Hunter returned an interception 85 yards for a score with 50 seconds left to give the Vikings a 33-12 lead.

“We’ve been consistent with it all year. We’ve just been dominant in the second half,” said Jesse Pedyfoot, who led WC with 65 rushing yards on six carries at fullback, and also had one solo tackle at linebacker. “The second half we come out and everybody’s in tune to the game.”

Murrah moved the ball against WC at times the Mustangs ran for 115 yards in the game and held the ball for a whopping 9 1/2 minutes of the second quarter but WC coach Curtis Brewer said that was part of the Vikings’ gameplan.

Murrah uses a spread offense that can be explosive. The plan was to contain the passing game and the big play, which opened things up for the Mustangs’ running game.

“We gave them some things because they’re so dangerous everywhere else,” Brewer said. “Sometimes you give a little to keep them from gaining a lot.”

Warren Central’s special teams has been gaining a lot lately.

Stamps’ 47-yard return of the free kick following the safety was his second big return of the night. Late in the second quarter, after Murrah had scored to take a 6-3 lead, Stamps took a kickoff 88 yards to the Mustang 5. Warner punched it in two plays later to give WC the lead for good.

“He sparked a sparkplug,” Warner said of Stamps’ first kick return. “He just got us going. That was a big kickoff return, and he kept doing it. When we needed it, he stepped up to the plate and did it.”

The big returns are becoming a pattern for the Vikings. Against Madison, Fred Payne returned a kickoff 94 yards for a score to tie the game at 7. It changed the momentum of the game, and WC went on to win 22-14.

“It’s a real big weapon, because they put us in range to score,” Pedyfoot said of the special teams. “That’s what (opponents) are going to have to plan for.”