After many delays, rivalry resumes Vicksburg and Warren Central meet in crucial division contest

Published 11:42 am Thursday, January 5, 2012

Warren Central and Vicksburg High coaches carefully arranged their schedules this season, trying to strike a balance of playing enough tough games to prepare for the postseason with days off for rest and breaks between the most important games.

A few days of rain in December changed all that.

Twice, the first meeting of the season between WC and VHS was rained out. It was finally rescheduled for tonight at Memorial Stadium, creating a stretch of division games that essentially compress the season down into one week.

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It will be the second of three division games in eight days for Vicksburg. Warren Central will begin a run of four division games in nine days starting today. When it’s all over, the playoff picture in Division 3-6A will largely be settled.

WC and Vicksburg will play again Tuesday at Viking Stadium.

“That’s what happens when there’s rainouts. Sometimes it falls into place like that,” WC girls coach Trey Banks said. “Mentally, we have to be ready every game, because one mistake can cost you a chance at the playoffs.”

Banks’ Lady Vikes (8-5-2) have some margin for error. They have played only one division game — a 7-0 rout of Greenville-Weston in December — and can take advantage of the tiebreaker rules to reach the playoffs. Playoff berths in soccer are decided by goal differential, not wins and losses, so WC’s four remaining games against Vicksburg and Clinton are basically two long games.

Banks said the postponement gives WC an edge in that regard, so it knows exactly what’s needed against Vicksburg (5-6, 0-2 Division 3-6A). The Missy Gators lost 5-0 to Clinton in December and 2-1 on Tuesday.

“Them playing Clinton gives us a good idea of goal differential. It’s always good knowing that, so you know if you have a chance at the division championship,” Banks said.

Vicksburg, meanwhile, already has two division losses and can’t afford to slip up again. It can survive a single loss to Warren Central, provided it can make up the goal difference, but two losses would end its playoff hopes.

VHS coach Kori Babb said she likes the way her team is playing, even after the most recent loss to Clinton. The Missy Gators held the powerful Lady Arrows to one goal in each half and picked up the intensity after being outshot 11-0 in the first half.

“I’m very pleased with the way they played. Our defense played very well after they settled down,” Babb said. “I’m very happy that we held (Clinton) to two.”

The December postponement benefited Warren Central’s boys team. If the game had gone on as originally scheduled, the Vikings would have been playing without three starters out with physical ailments. Two weeks later, Jade Pollock (back) and Dani McKay (illness) are both expected back in the lineup. Only Michael Mason (knee) will be out.

“We’re excited that we’re getting some of our players back. We’re working on some things, switching things up since we’re getting back to full strength,” WC coach Greg Head said.

Like the girls’ team, WC’s boys (10-3-2, 1-0) also enter tonight’s game with a 1½ game lead over Vicksburg (2-7-3, 0-2) in the division standings. Vicksburg was crushed by Clinton on Tuesday, 9-0, while the Vikings have played well and been ranked in some state polls this season.

Head isn’t taking the Gators lightly, though. It’s a similar situation to last season, when WC finished with a better overall record but Vicksburg won both regular-season meetings and went to the playoffs. Head said it was important for his team to play hard in both games against VHS.

“You’ve got to play goal differential. Even if we win, it’s not a shoo-in,” Head said.