Opportunity knocking for county teams in openers

Published 11:39 am Thursday, August 18, 2011

For the first time this season and probably the last, every team in the county is undefeated.

Opportunity is knocking for county teams Friday on a rare night when all four schools — Porters Chapel, St. Aloysius, Vicksburg and Warren Central — will be playing in Vicksburg.

The Red Carpet Bowl promises a pair of good games, as Vicksburg battles Brandon in the opener and Warren Central tangles with Pearl in the nightcap.

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Warren Central and Vicksburg combined for four wins last year and a slow start proved to be fatal to both.

In last year’s Red Carpet Bowl, the Vikings were bombed by Ocean Springs, 35-0, while Gulfport rolled to a 49-7 victory over the Gators.

Neither team could overcome the slow start.

This year, a winning start is exactly what both schools need.

Warren Central is greener than a gourd in many spots on the roster, and a victory over a Pearl team that likely will go deep in the Class 5A playoffs could be a springboard to a strong start.

Winning breeds confidence like nothing else and it validates everything the players sweated for during two-a-days, when the thermometer flirted with triple digits every day. Losing has the opposite effect, especially on a young team trying to find its identity.

Vicksburg is in the same boat.

The Gators need a fast start because the schedule is an uphill slog just like last year. After a bye week following the Red Carpet Bowl, Vicksburg travels to Richwood (La.) and will host a pair of teams that made the playoffs. Tylertown lost in the Class 3A semifinals while Lawrence County fell to St. Stanislaus in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

A defense that last year got shredded like sharp cheddar has to morph from no resistance to at least a speed bump for opposing offenses. The offense has to cut down on penalties and turnovers that took away scoring opportunities last year.

St. Aloysius is in one of Class 1A’s toughest regions with archrival Cathedral and perennial powerhouse Mount Olive. An opener against Catholic rival Madison-St. Joe is exactly what the young Flashes need as they battle for the Strauss-Stallings Trophy, awarded to the winning team of each year’s game.

Porters Chapel has the easiest opponent on the docket, as it hosts Union Christian. After a 2-8 season, Union will likely offer little resistance to a PCA team that will be playing mostly without quarterback Jonah Masterson.

While none of these games count as far as teams making the playoffs, the confidence gained in an opening night victory can lead to bigger and better things.

That boost would be something all four teams can use for the challenges ahead.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. You can follow him on Twitter at vpsportseditor. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or at swilson@vicksburgpost.com.