Will to succeed pushes WC’s Warner

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Warren Central’s Larry Warner tries to break out of the grasp of Grenada’s A.J. Topps during the Vikings’ Region 2-5A clinching victory on Friday. (Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[11/2/04]In the closing minutes of the second quarter, Warren Central running back Larry Warner hobbled toward the sideline to ask the coaches if he was staying in the game. After a brief pause, he kept himself in and gingerly ambled back to the huddle, his body aching.

Warner’s uniform was tinted crimson with sweat from head to toe. Despite all the hits he had taken from a tough Grenada defense he was lifted from his feet on numerous occassions Warner was the Vikings’ Timex that kept on ticking.

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In WC’s 21-3 win over the Chargers (7-3), the Viking defense stood tall and backup quarterback Ryan Williams completed a crucial 32-yard touchdown pass as Warren Central (9-1) locked up the Region 2-5A title on Friday. Behind the scenes, Warner quietly piled up 148 yards on 23 carries against a bruising, relentless defense that often had eight or nine players up close to stop the run.

“Each night I know they’re gunning for me. It’s just part of football,” Warner said. “I’ve just got to tighten my game up, come out there and run hard each and every play. You never know. There’s going to be a time when I break one.”

Still, Warner had nothing but good things to say about the defense that just caused him 48 minutes of misery on the field.

“They’ve got a great defense and a good coaching staff. I’ve got great respect for them, and I hope they do well because they’re a great group of guys,” he said.

After keeping Warner in the game, Warren Central broke its huddle and set its formation for the next play. Just before the snap came, he began nodding his head to let the Chargers know he was ready for more. Warner ripped off a 19-yard run, fighting off one of three Grenada facemask penalties in the game. He followed that with a 6-yard run that set up the Vikings at the Grenada 22-yard line.

“They had everybody up, they had them all in the box,” WC coach Curtis Brewer said. “He did a good job getting free.”

He gained three yards on the next play before exhaustion led to a fumble that WC recovered. Christian Hales then faked to Warner and kept it for an 18-yard scamper to the 1.

With first-and-goal from the 1, Warner took the handoff and was met by three different Grenada defenders with monstrous hits. He finally couldn’t take anymore and the Vikings called on fullback Dexter Carson for the TD with 18 seconds left before the half. But it was Warner’s will that moved the Vikings down the field for the game’s most crucial score that put WC ahead 7-3 at halftime.

He fought for 69 yards on 15 carries in the first half, and came back for more.

In the third quarter, he broke a 25-yard run down the WC sideline that was called back for holding. But as the play ended, Grenada’s defenders slammed him to the ground upon the drain in front of the bench. Warner got up and kept going.

On the next possession, he started the drive with a 30-yard run and began nodding his head again, showing he’s not going away that easily. Three plays later, Williams found Fred Payne for the Vikings’ second score. Warner finished the second half with another 79 yards on eight carries.

So how can the pocket-sized tailback Warner is 5-3, 135 pounds bust through defenders nearly twice his size on the highest level of high school football?

“Heart. Heart and the will to fight,” he said. “That’s what we’re being taught at Warren Central. You’ve got to have the will to fight.”

None of the state’s three major colleges is recruiting Warner, who has totaled 1,722 yards and 17 touchdowns in 10 games, but that doesn’t bother him. He’s just ready to lead Warren Central into the postseason and hopefully to a state title.

“Forget about college, anything else, it’s high school, man,” Warner said. “These people I’m in the locker room with every day, they’re my best friends each and every one of them.

“I ain’t even ready for this to end, it’s like the season’s going by so quick. We’re just starting to come together as a team, as a family. We’re like brothers in there and the coaches are like our dads.”