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And then there were three …

Larry Warner (28) leads the Warren Central Vikings into tonight’s playoff opener against Tupelo at Viking Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. (Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[11/12/04]It’d be easy for Warren Central to start mapping out playoff scenarios and an itinerary for its trip to South Panola in a couple of weeks. Easy and understandable.

After all, the Vikings have beaten all but one opponent this season, crushed most of the others, and won their second straight Region 2-5A title. They’re also facing a 5-6 Tupelo team in tonight’s first round playoff game at Viking Stadium.

It all has WC coach Curtis Brewer a little worried. It was just last year, he points out, that the Vikings lost to No. 4 seed Horn Lake in the first round.

“We’ve emphasized it,” WC coach Curtis Brewer said. “We’ve told them we were a No. 1 team and lost to a No. 4 team. We’re a No. 1 team this year and playing a No. 4 team. That’s enough said.”

Whether history will repeat itself is tough to gauge.

Three of Tupelo’s six losses were in region play against ranked teams, including No. 1 South Panola and No. 4 Olive Branch. A fourth came against Class 4A power Oxford.

Yet, the Golden Waves’ five wins have been by a total of 40 points including a 21-point victory over Horn Lake. Three of Tupelo’s wins have been by a field goal or less. Some of the results are certainly due to the tough competition Tupelo has faced, which is why Brewer isn’t letting the Vikings look ahead.

“If I had one thing to say about the playoffs, it’s that when you get to the playoffs you erase the board and get a chance to start over,” Brewer said. “People know South Panola, but anybody with a little luck and some breaks can play with anybody. Somewhere, there’s going to be some upsets.”

Eight Warren Central starters are nursing injuries, ranging from the nagging ankle sprain of running back Larry Warner to the lingering shoulder injury of quarterback Christian Hales.

The worst of the bunch might be fullback Jesse Pedyfoot. He suffered a high ankle sprain in last week’s win over Vicksburg. Brewer said Pedyfoot has been practicing this week, but if he’s limited it could hinder WC’s offense.

Pedyfoot ran for 100 yards in the 37-0 victory over VHS and has been a reliable second option when teams have keyed on Warner. He’s also a good blocker in the passing and running game.

“It really does affect us when he’s out. He makes blocks for Larry, he makes blocks for pass protection,” said backup quarterback Ryan Williams, who has played well while filling in for Hales and could see more playing time tonight. “Last week, they keyed on Larry tremendously and (Pedyfoot) made great runs.

“If they key on Larry again this week, he’s going to have another great night.”

While the injuries might slow WC, they alone shouldn’t completely derail the Viking machine. Brewer said lineman Zach Balthrop (shoulder) is the only one of the group who might miss the game completely. Balthrop’s status will be a game-time decision.

“Most of them, they’ve been practicing and out on the field in whatever capacity they could be out there,” Brewer said.