WC makes statement with win

Published 10:37 am Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Warren Central defensive lineman Malik Steele (40) closes in on Madison Central quarterback Trey Smith (12) during Friday’s game at Viking Stadium. (Walter Frazier/For The Vicksburg Post)

Warren Central defensive lineman Malik Steele (40) closes in on Madison Central quarterback Trey Smith (12) during Friday’s game at Viking Stadium. (Walter Frazier/For The Vicksburg Post)

With 5 seconds left on the clock Friday night, Warren Central had answered most of the nagging questions about whether it belongs in the conversation about Mississippi’s best teams.

One miracle finish and a quick victory lap later, the Vikings answered an even more bothersome one — could they beat the best?

Marcus Ragan’s touchdown catch off a tipped pass on the final play of the game gave WC an unforgettable 16-14 win over Madison Central. The victory pushed Warren Central’s record to 7-0 for the first time in 20 years (3-0 in Region 2-6A) and served notice to the rest of the state that it’ll be a force to be reckoned with the rest of the way.

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“It’s a great statement for us, knowing we’re going into the next game with a lot of momentum and sending a message to the rest of the teams that we’re ready to play,” said WC quarterback Alex Stevens, who was 16-of-30 passing for 171 yards and two touchdowns against Madison.

Warren Central still has a long way to go to win the Region 2-6A championship. It faces a dangerous Murrah (6-2, 1-2) team this Friday, then No. 7 Clinton (6-1, 3-0) next week. After that is a trip to top-ranked Starkville (7-0, 3-0) on Halloween night.

For now, though, the Vikings are celebrating after taking down the region’s reigning king ­— and their own longtime nemesis. WC’s victory snapped an eight-game losing streak to Madison Central (4-3, 1-2) and also likely ended the Jaguars’ seven-year run as region champs.

Madison Central is still in good position to make the playoffs, but faces Starkville this week and is three games behind both Clinton and Warren Central in the region standings.

“We always talked about it was the next big step for us, and it really is,” Stevens said. “It’s just another big step for our program. It’s going up, and it’s not going down.”

The Vikings also took some odd encouragement in knowing they found a way to beat Madison Central despite making a slew of mistakes that forced them into the do-or-die situation at the end.

WC had a blocked punt return for a touchdown wiped out by an illegal block in the third quarter, and Stevens threw a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions that seemed like backbreakers. One followed a 26-yard gain off a fake punt — which itself was offset by a 15-yard celebration penalty at the end of the play.

Another long pass inside the 10-yard line just before halftime was negated by a penalty, and the Vikings fumbled later in the drive.

“We did not play a good game,” WC coach Josh Morgan said. “We had a blocked punt called back, a fake punt that got minimized by penalty yardage, stuff like that we’ve got to work on. But we still found a way to win. I’m proud of them.”

The path to victory was paved, largely, by the defense.

In the second half, WC shut out Madison Central and only allowed one first down. The Jaguars finished with a season-low 189 total yards — 144 of which came on two long scoring drives in the first half.

The Vikings forced three-and-outs after both of Stevens’ interceptions. The special teams put pressure on Madison punter Jack Sims, as well, to give the offense good field position. In addition to its punt block, it nearly got both of Sims’ punts in the fourth quarter, leading to kicks of just 17 and 21 yards.

The final punt put Warren Central’s offense on the field at the Madison 48-yard line with 3:16 remaining. WC drove in the rest of the way, scoring the game-winning touchdown on a pass from Stevens to Ragan — with an assist from a tip by Madison defensive back Isiah Thomas ­— as time expired.

“We had a gut-check at halftime. It was a look at yourself in the mirror type, and they responded,” Morgan said. “They didn’t score in the second half, and we found a way to win. That’s the mark of a dang good ball club.”

On the radio

Friday, 7 p.m, 105.5 FM

Warren Central at Murrah

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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