Warren Central trio are pitch perfect Head, Bounds help Vikings keep up momentum

Published 12:12 am Sunday, March 18, 2012

Warren Central coach Greg Head was worried.

Expectations for his soccer team were low after 12 seniors graduated from his roster. During the summer, his team was blown out by Northwest Rankin in a friendly that was anything but to the Vikings’ state of mind. The Vikings finished the summer season with just two wins in two tournaments.

Head called together his beaten and dismayed team for a pair of meetings, one after the last tournament game and one before the season started.

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They took his message of togetherness and hard work to heart and responded.

“After losing those 12 seniors, everyone knew it was going to be a rebuilding year,” Head said. “Everyone was expecting us to have a poor season. We had some players were used to winning. Every time I asked them to step up, they stepped up. You couldn’t rely on just one or two players.”

The Vikings overcame some injuries and earned a second straight berth in the Class 6A playoffs with a new cast, finishing with a 14-6 record.

For his efforts, Head is the Vicksburg Post Coach of the Year.

The Vikings were boosted by the efforts of forward Chandler Bounds, who is the Vicksburg Post Player of the Year. The three-year starter and Gulf Coast Community College signee wore the captain’s armband on his sleeve and scored a team-best 16 goals and 12 assists while leading from the front.

“He stepped up as one of the captains of the team,” Head said. “Whenever you have a player who leads by example and is a strong, vocal leader, it’s going to help your team out.”

The Vikings received a welcome boost of talent from a pair of exchange students, Swedish native and midfielder Oscar Kjellberg and Italian defender Alberto Capeleto, who filled vital vacancies.

After that, it was all gravy. A 2-1 win over Northwest Rankin, the first for Head in his six-year tenure at WC, was the turning point, a long way from the two-win summer.

“They drummed us in the tournament, they really put it on us, but when we played them again, we were fired up,” Head said. “Once we did that, it really opened the kids’ eyes that we are a really good team. What we lacked in skill, these kids made up for in heart. We didn’t have the great players we’ve had in the past, but this was definitely one of our better teams.”

The biggest difference between the powerhouses and the rest of the pack is what happens after a big group of seniors graduate. The great teams replace their losses and keep the train rolling, while the good ones take a down year or two to rebuild. WC’s performance proved — even in a rebuilding year — that it is on its way to joining the ranks of the elite. With multiple players from WC picked for the annual Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star Game — like Bounds — in the past few years, the state’s coaches are gaining a respect for the program that Head built.

“We changed everything around,” Bounds said about the program’s perception. “We were supposed to be recuperating from last year, but we proved everyone wrong. People thought that we were going to be the underdogs and weren’t going to win much, but we proved them wrong. I’m proud of that.

But much work needs to be done. And Head doesn’t intend for his team to rest on its success.

“When you don’t have the select players like Northwest Rankin or Clinton, you’ve got to do it with heart,” Head said. “Warren Central has always been known for its heart. That’s how we’re so successful.”