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Bragging rights at stake in annual grudge match

[11/5/04]For the first time in several years, the only thing at stake tonight when the Vicksburg Gators and Warren Central Vikings tangle is county-wide bragging rights.

The No. 8 Vikings (9-1, 6-0 Region 2-5A) have already sewn up the region championship and a first-round home playoff game. Vicksburg has sewn up a fifth-place finish in the region and is building plans for the future.

Just don’t tell players or coaches nothing’s at stake.

“It’s hard to treat this as just another game, but you have to,” Vicksburg defensive back Marcus Harris said. “You can’t get caught up in all of what the community is saying, you just have to play.”

Warren Central offensive lineman Chris Kelly added, “It’s still intense. What can you say? It’s Vicksburg.”

It’s a game dominated by the Vikings, who will try to win for the 22nd time in 24 chances. Last season when the two were battling for the Region 2-5A championship, Warren Central won 35-6. Both teams lost in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs.

“It’s a fun game, no matter what happens,” WC running back Larry Warner said. “You know they’ll come out with fire and we’ll come out with fire. It’s always a big game when we play.”

Warner will lead a Warren Central offense that has averaged almost 35 points a game. The senior running back has rushed for a gaudy 1,745 yards and 17 touchdowns. Of late, though, he said opponents have been focusing more on stopping him.

Vicksburg coach Alonzo Stevens said aiming to stop Warner is difficult, instead the Gators will look to slow him down.

“It’s difficult to stop great runners,” Stevens said. “You have to try to contain them.”

While opponents have keyed on Warner, fullback Jesse Pedyfoot has scored six touchdowns. Quarterback Christian Hales, who was injured in the Vikings’ win over Grenada, is listed as day-to-day and coaches said it will be a game-time decision whether he will play.

If Hales cannot go, backup Ryan Williams will get the nod. The sophomore threw a key touchdown pass to Fred Payne to help WC defeat Grenada.

“You go out each practice and work as hard as you can because you never know,” Williams said. “I hope he’s better because it’s his senior season. But I will review film and practice hard.”