Warren Central’s ‘Ironmen’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 10, 2009

John Gustavis was trucking down the field last Friday, the football in his hand and a defender on his back. A few plays later, he was nose to nose with an angry offensive lineman as he tried to find his way back to the ball.

Tim Jones had a similar night. One minute, he was running away from the Hattiesburg players in the purple jerseys. The next, he was running toward them.

Same with Beau Wallace. As a quarterback, he spends most of his time avoiding interceptions. As a safety, it’s his job to create them.

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It sounds confusing, but it’s really all in a night’s work for the three Warren Central football players. Gustavis, Jones and Wallace are among nearly a dozen Vikings playing full-time on both offense and defense this season. That’s not unusual at smaller programs, but for a Class 6A school with about 75 people on the roster it is a rarity. Warren Central coach Curtis Brewer said it was a result of the team’s most talented athletes also being skilled at several positions.

“It’s a very, very difficult thing to do in 6A football. In 6A you usually see an offensive and a defensive team and people you run in and out to rest your linemen. We’re just having to play them both ways. To have an opportunity to win, that’s what we’ve got to do,” Brewer said. “It’s essential that we do this because of our depth and having players that can play on the 6A level. It’s not something we’re doing to go back to bygone days.”

Besides Gustavis, Jones and Wallace, other players going both ways include linemen Steven Jordan and Jimal Johnson; tight end and linebacker Lonnie Breithaupt; fullback and linebacker Austin Roberts; and wide receiver-cornerback Patrick Taylor.

Of all the players going both ways, none may have as difficult — or  as 

thankless — a job as Gustavis. The 300-pound senior is a starter at fullback and defensive tackle, both positions where the goal is to make other players look good. Gustavis carried the ball seven times for 48 yards in last week’s 28-14 loss to Hattiesburg, but as a blocker helped tailback Jones run for 130 yards and two touchdowns. On the defensive side, he has seven tackles this season at a position where his job is to clear away the linemen so the linebackers can come in for the tackle.

Gustavis’ backup, Roberts, is in a similar role. Both fullback and defensive line are positions where physical contact happens on nearly every play. After a couple of hours, even the biggest man can wear down from the punishment. While the physical toll is high, Gustavis said seeing so many of his teammates performing double-duty helps push him through.

“It’s very motivating. If I was the only person doing it I would be special. With everybody doing it, it’s more of a team effort,” Gustavis said.

Jones also takes his share of punishment. He’s carried the ball 51 times in three games, for a team-high 351 yards, and is second on the team with 20 tackles. Like Gustavis and Roberts, he’s usually on one side or the other of a collision when he’s on the field.

“We’ve just got to stay in shape,” Jones said. “Just relax when it’s time to relax and play when it’s time to play. Then ice your body down when you’re done.”


Contact Ernest Bowker at ebowker@vicksburgpost.com