Vikings’ defense hits stride; offense slow to follow|[10/03/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 3, 2005

BRANDON – Warren Central’s defense got its groove back on Friday. Now, if only the offense can do the same thing, the Vikings will be in business.

Warren Central shut down Northwest Rankin’s powerful offense, holding the Cougars to 246 yards and two scoring drives. But WC’s offense managed only one touchdown and missed two second-half opportunities in the red zone as Northwest Rankin came away with an 11-6 win.

The loss was the third straight for WC (2-3, 0-1 Region 2-5A). During the losing streak, the Vikings have scored only 12 points.

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“It’s not an individual’s fault. Everybody messes up. But I take the blame for tonight,” said WC quarterback Ryan Williams, who completed 5 of 13 passes for 32 yards, with one interception and one lost fumble. “Twelve points. We’re a better offense than that. I guarantee we’ll put up more points as the year goes on, starting next week.”

Warren Central did manufacture a few offensive drives on Friday. Troy Rogers scored on a 1-yard run with 3:43 to play in the first half, capping a brief three-play, 6-yard drive after a Northwest fumble to cut it to 8-6.

And on the Vikings’ second possession of the second half they quickly moved from midfield to the Northwest 20-yard line. At the end of a 14-yard pass,

however, Carleton Davis fumbled the ball away to end the threat there. Davis atoned for the mistake on WC’s next possession, carrying on seven of the first eight plays as the Vikings moved from their own 18-yard line to the Northwest 30 before bogging down.

Davis gained 70 of his team-high 112 rushing yards on the drive, but gained only 3 yards after running for a first down to the Northwest 26. The Vikings converted a fourth-and-3 with a pass from Williams to Cornell Miles, then self-destructed with a running play for loss, an illegal substitution penalty, and two incompletions on the next set of downs.

WC got the ball back one more time but had to punt after going three-and-out.

“When you get inside the red zone every time and can’t put it in, you don’t deserve to win,” said Michael Robinson, who caught one pass at receiver and broke up several passes on defense. “It’s something we can work out before next week. But this game, we needed it. Now we’ve lost three in a row.”

Heading into the Northwest Rankin game, WC’s defense had been struggling as much as its offense. South Pike and Meridian had torched the secondary for over 300 passing yards and six touchdowns, four of which covered 30 yards or more.

Northwest, which had scored at least 28 points in each of its first four games, had the same gameplan and did take some shots deep. But quarterback Jordan King couldn’t find any holes in the secondary and was constantly scrambling in the face of a ferocious pass rush. King was held to just 73 yards on 7-of-19 passing.

“Their defensive ends were coming in pretty hard, and they were playing a defense that we hadn’t seen all year with their safeties. They just did a really good job of breaking up passes,” King said. “We tried to go deep and it didn’t work out. We found some short routes underneath … (WC) did great.”

The Cougars did most of their damage on the ground with running back Stephen Wright. The 5-foot-7, 209-pound tailback ran for 139 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. Nearly half his yards, 68 of them, came on the Cougars’ two scoring drives in the second quarter.

All of Wright’s yards were hard-earned, though. Fourteen of his 26 carries went for less than five yards. Brewer credited a good week of practice, a fresh attitude, and some younger players making the most of their chance for the defense’s resurgence.

Two starters, linebacker Dexter Carson and defensive end Rod Goings, missed the game because of an apparent discipline issue.

WC coach Curtis Brewer declined to comment on the specific reason for their absence.

“We have no comment on it. We’re playing with the team and the kids that are here,” Brewer said, adding that the players in question had not necessarily been dismissed from the team despite their absence. “We’ll see what happens next week. That’s up to me to decide, not to them.”