Vikings look to shake Red Carpet blues

Published 10:32 am Thursday, August 21, 2014

In the grand scheme of things, the Red Carpet Bowl doesn’t mean anything special for Warren Central.

It’s one game. One win, or one loss.

As a symbol, however, it means everything for this year’s Vikings.

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Warren Central hasn’t won a Red Carpet Bowl since beating Clarksdale in 2008. The five-year drought means no one on the current roster has gotten to hoist the trophy at the end of the night.

Warren Central quarterback Alex Stevens waits on the snap during the team's spring game in May. Stevens will get his first varsity start when the Vikings play Terry Friday night in the Red Carpet Bowl at Vicksburg High's Memorial Stadium. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

Warren Central quarterback Alex Stevens waits on the snap during the team’s spring game in May. Stevens will get his first varsity start when the Vikings play Terry Friday night in the Red Carpet Bowl at Vicksburg High’s Memorial Stadium. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

Even more, it means the Vikings haven’t won a season-opener since then. For a team with designs on a region championship and a deep playoff run, beating Terry on Friday night and getting off to a fast start for a change would provide a big lift.

“I think it’s been eight years since we won it,” WC quarterback Alex Stevens said, slightly missing the mark. “It’s not a lack of preparation. We just have to finish that game, realize it’s a big game, and play better in it. We have to not have turnovers and move the ball better and not leave it in the hands of our defense so much.”

Stevens is one of several new faces in Warren Central’s starting lineup. The senior saw some playing time in his first two varsity seasons, but will be starting a game under center for the first time when he trots onto the field for the Red Carpet Bowl at Vicksburg High’s Memorial Stadium.

Stevens saw more action as a sophomore than as a junior. He was 8-of-14 passing for 110 yards and two touchdowns in 2012, then threw just four passes last season. Even with that limited experience, he said it’ll help him Friday night.

“It’s good that I’ve had some experience and played before. It’s a big step up from ninth grade or junior high, so it’s good that I had that experience,” Stevens said. “I feel good. I trust the guys around me and my coaches.”

Speaking of coaches, Warren Central will be seeing a bunch of new ones this season. Terry is the first of six consecutive opponents the Vikings will face who changed head coaches during the offseason.

Jon Herrington has replaced Todd McDaniel, who led the Bulldogs to a 5-6 record last season before moving on to Hazlehurst.

Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said Terry’s coaching change has left his team with a lack of quality information going into the opener. Herrington was hired after spring practice and also overhauled his coaching staff.

“We’re going into this game about as blind as you can. They’re going to be big and have good-looking athletes. I know that from playing them in the Little Six and seeing them around,” Morgan said. “It’s not a good feeling, because we really like to do our homework. We have to do the best we can with what we’re dealt.”

The scouting report on Warren Central is a bit easier to figure out. The Vikings have a respectable offense, but are powered by defense.

Warren Central allowed the fewest points in Class 6A last season and has six starters back from that unit — including two-time Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year DeArius Christmas at linebacker and Mississippi State commit Chris Stamps at cornerback.

If the defense can once again hold teams to the 12.3 points they allowed per game last season, the Vikings could be in for another big year. It all starts Friday night, though, when the first step toward chilly autumn glory begins in the suffocating summer heat.

“The reason it’s so big for you is, you’re going through spring, all summer, and you want to start off the right way,” Morgan said. “It’s all about this game and what it can do for our season.”

Red Carpet Bowl

Friday, at Vicksburg High

3:30 p.m. – Porters Chapel vs. Union Christian (Radio: 104.5 FM)

6 p.m. – Warren Central vs. Terry (Radio: 105.5 FM)

8:30 p.m. – Vicksburg vs. McComb (Radio: 1490 AM)

Admission: $15 at the gate or $12 in advance. Tickets are valid for all three games. Advance tickets are available at school athletic offices for PCA, Warren Central and Vicksburg, Just Duett Sports, or any RCB committee member.

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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