Ware a quiet force for stout WC defense

Published 10:28 am Thursday, August 14, 2014

Warren Central safety Michael Ware was third on the team with 96 tackles last season, and will return to anchor one of the state’s top defenses this year. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

Warren Central safety Michael Ware was third on the team with 96 tackles last season, and will return to anchor one of the state’s top defenses this year. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

For Warren Central fans, Michael Ware is No. 1 in their program.

In their hearts? Maybe not as much.

Ware, a senior free safety, was third on the team with 96 tackles and an indispensable cog on the best scoring defense in Class 6A. He did it largely in anonymity, as some of his playmaking teammates grabbed the spotlight.

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That’s just fine with Ware, who said he’s happy to give up the glory if it means getting the job done as a team.

“I have no problem with that. It’s all right. I don’t feel overlooked. I feel like my time is going to come eventually,” Ware said.

Ware worked a lot in the shadows in 2013, and not just in terms of playing behind better-known teammates like two-time Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year DeArius Christmas or highly-recruited cornerback Chris Stamps.

Ware often moved up in run support or blitzed the quarterback, making him as much of a linebacker as he was a safety. The hybrid position meant he didn’t always have a true home on the field, but was there to clean up whatever messes arose.

“To be honest, he is probably the backbone of our defense,” WC coach Josh Morgan said. “We ask Mike to do a tremendous amount, as far as covering the slot guy one-on-one, as far as making open-field tackles because there’s nobody else behind him. Getting people lined up in the secondary and making the correct calls. He does it on a consistent basis, on a very high level.”

That Ware has become such an integral part of WC’s defense is surprising considering the 2013 season was his first as a starter. He didn’t play at all as a sophomore, saying he “wasn’t ready” for the varsity level.

Coming into his junior year, however, it was obvious to everyone in WC’s program that he’d put in the work to get ready.

“We knew coming into his junior year last year that he was going to be on the field somewhere,” Morgan said. “We hoped to find that right spot where he fit in, and it wasn’t very long before we knew he had to be in the center of our defense and the back end in case something breaks down.”

It paid off with his big junior season. Ware had 57 solo tackles, and at least six total tackles in every game. His best outing was against Callaway, when he had 14 total tackles, including one for loss. He also had eight total tackles and two fumble recoveries against Madison Central.

“I worked a lot harder going into my junior year. I had to realize what it took to play on a Vikings defense. I just put everything together,” said Ware, who has drawn recruiting interest from several junior colleges so far.

The soft-spoken Ware, who is listed at just 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, has also made a big impression on his teammates. Christmas and Stamps were both impressed with Ware’s physicality.

“He played safety, but he was hitting like a linebacker. He had as many tackles as a linebacker,” Stamps said. “Mike’s going to be Mike. He’s going to be aggressive and be a savvy ballplayer. He’s always going to be that nasty guy who makes big plays and finishes tackles.”

Among Ware’s personal goals for this season are bettering his tackle total and getting more takeaways — both things Morgan said he’ll have ample opportunity to do.

The coach plans to expand Ware’s role in the defense and turn a guy who carries himself like Clark Kent off the field into “Superman” on it.

“We’re going to put some more on his plate. We’re going to have him close to the line more,” Morgan said. “We call it our Superman role. He’s going to have to play deep middle in zone, man on the best receiver in the slot, and he’s got to be a sure tackler. He fills that role.”

Hidden gems

This is the last in a series on overlooked high school football

players who will make a big impact this season.

Hidden gems

• Aug. 11: St. Al linebacker Casey Landers.

• Aug. 12: Vicksburg High receiver Kareeme Butler

• Aug. 13: Porters Chapel lineman Austin Kraemer

• Aug. 14: Warren Central safety Michael Ware

WC on the field

Jamboree: Friday, Aug. 15, at Jackson Academy,

vs. Madison-Ridgeland Academy (7 p.m.) and Jackson Academy (9 p.m.)

Season opener: Aug. 22, 6 p.m., vs. Terry, Red Carpet Bowl at Vicksburg High

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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