County teams gear up for key stretch of games
Published 11:30 am Tuesday, April 8, 2014
In most seasons, the game between Vicksburg and Warren Central is one of the biggest of the year.
When the teams met Saturday afternoon, a bit removed from the traditional Friday night showcase, it was clear on both sides that in the framework of this season it wasn’t even the biggest game of the week.
Both Vicksburg and Warren Central can clinch playoff berths and division championships during a key stretch of games this week. It was that eye cast toward the playoffs, and not the immediate gains of a Saturday win, that was the focus for both squads in the aftermath of Warren Central’s 16-3 win at Viking Field.
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“Hopefully we were overlooking today and looking into Pearl. It’ll be a really deciding game. It won’t clinch it, but it’ll give us the upper hand. That’s the one that really matters,” Vicksburg coach Ryan Grey said.
The Gators (8-7, 4-0 Division 4-5A) play three division games this week, and five in a span of eight days. The run starts tonight at Bazinsky Field against Pearl (12-6, 5-1), Vicksburg’s main obstacle to winning the division title.
Vicksburg has a half-game lead in the loss column, and won the first meeting between the teams on March 18. A win tonight would give the Gators the season series — which is the first tiebreaker — and a playoff berth.
Vicksburg also plays Callaway Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Bazinsky Field, then at Pearl on Friday night. Winning all three games would give the Gators their first division championship since 2008.
“It was a goal we set before the season ever started back in the fall. Anytime you achieve one of your goals it’s definitely a confidence booster,” Grey said. “It’s been a long time since Vicksburg High has won a district championship. I think 2008 was the last one, and that year that they won it they went all the way to Trustmark. So hopefully we can repeat that.”
Warren Central (16-3, 5-1 Divsion 4-6A) also has designs on a trip to Trustmark Park for the Class 6A championship series. The first piece of the blueprint is to win the program’s first division title since 2010.
The Vikings have already clinched a playoff berth — the top three teams in each division qualify — and can secure the No. 2 seed by beating hapless Murrah (2-13, 0-5) at home tonight. A win there, and at Clinton (15-5, 5-1) on Friday, will lock up the division championship.
WC and Clinton have split the first two games in their season series. Clinton won 7-0 on March 25 to hand WC its only loss in its last 12 games. The Vikings took the second game against Clinton, 8-1 on March 31.
Warren Central has won six consecutive games heading into tonight’s game against Murrah.
Each division champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs and homefield advantage for its second-round series.
“We’re playing for the division championship right now. We have to beat Murrah first, but we’re looking ahead too toward Clinton,” Warren Central coach Conner Douglas said. “Our first goal this season was to win the division. Then we look forward to the playoffs. This week is a big week. We’re confident going into it.”
Warren County’s two biggest high school programs aren’t the only ones with something to play for this week.
Porters Chapel Academy, which has already clinched a berth in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class A playoffs, had a doubleheader with District 5-A opponent Veritas rained out on Monday. The games have not yet been rescheduled.
St. Aloysius (7-6, 2-1 Division 7-1A), meanwhile, has three division games left — tonight at first-place Cathedral (12-3, 4-0), Friday at home against Cathedral, and next Monday at home against Bogue Chitto (6-10, 1-2).
St. Al can clinch a playoff berth by winning one of those three games, or with another division loss by Pelahatchie (3-10, 0-4).
To win their second consecutive division championship, the Flashes need to win their last three division games.