WC’s offense sputters as playoff hopes dim

Published 11:53 am Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The disappointment of Friday’s crushing 26-20 loss to Murrah will linger long in the memories of Warren Central, tinged with the bitter sting of missed opportunities.

Murrah (4-4, 3-1 Region 2-6A) did everything it could to hand the game to WC, with five turnovers despite controlling the line of scrimmage and outgaining the Vikings 338-120.

The loss cast Warren Central into a five-way tie for the fourth and final playoff spot in Region 2-6A with Greenville-Weston, Vicksburg, Jim Hill and Clinton. A loss Friday night to Clinton would be the final nail in the coffin for WC’s fading playoff hopes with three games remaining.

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To stay alive, the Vikings (1-7, 1-3) will need a better offensive effort than the one they turned in against Murrah.

Quarterback Chase Ladd didn’t complete a pass in eight attempts and was intercepted twice. Without the passing game in gear, the Mustangs stacked eight defenders in the box and stood up the Vikings’ ground game. The Vikings had 25 yards of offense in the first half and only one first down. Aaron Stamps — who had 140 yards the previous week against Madison Central — led the team with 54 yards on 12 carries.

“The number one thing is that they stacked the box on us and we couldn’t complete passes to get them out of that,” WC coach Josh Morgan said. “We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities in the passing game.”

Warren Central’s loss marred another huge performance from Kourey Davis. The junior got the Vikings back into the game near the end of the first half with an electrifying 50-yard interception return for his first touchdown. He scored again on a 25-yard quarterback keeper, when the 6-foot-5 player shook off several tackles to tie the game at 12.

Davis then lined up at quarterback and tossed a touchdown pass to tight end Patrick Varnado — WC’s only completion of the night — to give the Vikings a 20-12 lead.

“He’s taking on a leadership role and making every play that needs to be made,” Morgan said of Davis. “He’s become a great playmaker for us and he had a great night.”

Defensively, the Vikings did themselves no favors either, allowing Antwan Bulley and Fred Franklin to combine for 284 yards on the ground.

The backbreaker came after Bulley’s 40-yard TD run cut the deficit to two with 8:06 left in the fourth.

The Mustangs recovered an onside kick on the opening kickoff of the second half and choked away a scoring opportunity on the WC 6 with a fumble. But they tried again and cashed in.

A second onside kick after Bulley’s touchdown rolled between four Vikings and the Mustangs fell on the ball at the WC 35. Eight plays later, quarterback Chris Webster atoned for his three-interception performance with a 10-yard TD run that put Murrah up 26-20 after Bulley’s two-point conversion.

“The two onside kicks, I can’t get those out of my mind,” Morgan said. “As much as we work on special teams in practice, it is unacceptable. Those are the kind of plays that get you beat and that’s exactly what happened to us tonight. We’ve got to find ways to win games. Bottom line.”

WC recovered the ensuing squibbed kickoff in decent field position at its own 35. But the drive stalled after Stamps was dragged back for a big loss. In a fourth-and-9 situation, Morgan elected to punt with three minutes and change left. Devon Bell did his job, burying the Mustangs at their own 5, but two first downs later the Mustangs were able to run out the clock out for the win that put them in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth.

“We were going to go for it, but the play before, we got hit for a big loss,” Morgan said. “We got a good punt, but we let them out of the end zone and that doesn’t cut it.”