Vicksburg, WC ready to tangle

Published 11:40 am Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tonight’s Vicksburg-Warren Central soccer match won’t count when it comes to the postseason. That comes on Jan. 11 at Vicksburg.

It’s for bragging rights only, but that’s enough.

Despite a decision by the league’s coaches that changed the Division 3-6A scheduling format from two games against each division foe to one apiece, neither school is treating it like a normal non-division match.

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“It’s Vicksburg. How else can you look at it?” WC girls’ coach Trey Banks said. “Whether it’s district or not, whether they’re going to go to (Class) 5A or not, it’s Vicksburg. We don’t want to lose to Vicksburg. We want to give Vicksburg the best possible game we can give. It’s our archrival. We want to win that game.”

Warren Central (6-5-2) brings a balanced attack into tonight’s matchup, as eight different players on the roster have scored at least two goals. Goalkeeper McKenzie Page has 63 saves and six shutouts.

Vicksburg (5-8) is led by the dynamic scoring of Tabitha Hayden, who had a hat trick in a win over Forest Hill, and Mikayla Banks.

The Lady Vikes and Missy Gators split last year’s series, with Vicksburg taking the first game 2-1 and Warren Central winning the finale 2-1.

All parties expect a hard-fought battle.

“No matter who’s on the team, what year it is, the Vicksburg game is always the hardest game,” WC senior midfielder Katie Humphries said. “We always work the hardest, and they always seem to bring their best, too. It never fails.”

On the boys’ side, the Gators made a list of objectives for this season. They’ve checked off one item, scoring more than 20 goals. The next item is a no brainer: Beating Warren Central. Last year, the Vikings swept the season series, shutting them out 4-0 combined. It’s a stat that doesn’t sit well with the Gators.

“We’re really excited about it,” Vicksburg senior midfielder Garrett Watson said. “It’s a rivalry game, it means the same thing to us, district or not. It’s always going to be an intense game.”

The next objective for the Gators is securing a berth in the postseason. First-year VHS coach Michael Guidry knows the last two goals on the sheet go hand-in-hand.

“It’s a big measuring stick for us,” Guidry said. “We’ve played some real heavyweights and some teams that give us a better idea of where we are. This game will show us where we are. We know the winner of this matchup, looking at history, tends to make the playoffs. If we can beat this team, we’ll know we’ll have some momentum going into that district game (in the rematch on Jan. 11).”

The Gators (4-5-2) are led offensively by Tylar Jackson and Watson, who are tied for the team’s scoring lead with eight goals apiece. Will Robbins has seven assists.

WC’s offense is just as potent, but the Vikings will lead on a tough defense led by junior goalkeeper Baxter Richardson, who has 69 shutouts and five shutouts.

Senior Ahstin Greer (six goals) and Nick Wright (five goals) lead the Vikings (6-5-2) in scoring.

WC coach Greg Head was unhappy with the change in division play format.

“I don’t like playing them one game. Hopefully that’ll change next year,” WC coach Greg Head said. “Schools like us and Vicksburg, who are pretty evenly matched, you can have three people sit one night and then what’s going to happen? That’s a district game, that’s the only one you play. So hopefully we can change that back next year.”

Sports reporter Ernest Bowker contributed to this report