Warren Central goes for fun, win vs. Gators

Published 11:21 am Thursday, September 4, 2014

For a long time, Warren Central’s coaching staff tried to downplay its rivalry game with Vicksburg.

The Vikings dominated the first two decades of the series, winning 20 of 21 meetings, and often had their eye on the playoffs a week or two later. The rivalry game at the end of the regular season was a distraction.

Those days are long gone now.

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With the teams in different classifications, Vicksburg having found some success at last in the series, and the game moved to September, WC’s braintrust decided it’s time to have some fun with it. In recent years, the bulletin boards in the fieldhouse have been filled with pictures of the Gators and their accomplishments as a reminder to WC’s players of the importance of locking down a win and bragging rights for the next 365 days.

“It’s fun. It’s a fun week, mainly for the players. They look forward to it, and the community looks forward to it on both sides. It is what it is — a battle for bragging rights,” said Warren Central coach Josh Morgan, who helped the Vikings win four in a row in the series as a player in the mid-1990s. “We enjoy it. It makes the week special and the night special. We definitely embrace it and try to have our guys play at an extremely high level.”

Through two weeks, it’s obvious the Vikings haven’t needed an excuse to play well. They’ve routed Terry and Callaway by a combined score of 72-12 and have yet to allow a true touchdown drive. Terry scored on an 82-yard run and Callaway after returning a fumble inside the 10-yard line.

It’s the same type of dominant defense the Vikings showed last season, when they allowed the fewest points in Class 6A.

What’s been more surprising has been WC’s offensive output. A dozen different players had at least one rushing attempt against Terry and four scored touchdowns. They then shifted gears and threw the ball in last week’s 34-6 rout of Callaway. Alex Stevens threw for 156 yards and three touchdowns and spread the ball around to six different receivers.

“We feel like we have a good number of players contributing,” Morgan said. “The best thing out of it is competition. Guys are competing for playing time. Certain situations you have a main guy to go to, and certain situations you have several, but there’s always somebody. It makes us better.”

The diversified attack has helped Warren Central to its first 2-0 start since 2005, and injected a spark into a team that for several years had relied on its defense to carry the load.

The back-to-back 30-point outings mark the first time WC has accomplished that feat since October 2012. It only scored more than 30 once all of last season.

The next challenge is doing it against a Vicksburg defense that also seems to have improved a bit over recent versions. The Gators held South Delta to 12 points last week and held its own against a talented McComb squad in the Red Carpet Bowl.

The Gators’ offense is also the best Warren Central has seen so far this season. Quarterback Marquez Pickett has thrown five touchdown passes in two games.

“Dangerous,” Morgan said in assessing Vicksburg. “They have a quarterback that’s a good athlete, and any time you mix speed on the edge with a quarterback that can throw it, you’ve got a dangerous football team. And then the defense mirrors the offense, with the speed on the edge. We’re going to have our hands full.”

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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