Warnsley, Fields get another chance

Published 1:15 am Thursday, November 27, 2014

St. Aloysius linebacker Taedrin Warnsley (32) hits Cathedral’s Dee Fleming in the season opener. Warnsley has been a key part of St. Al’s defense since transferring in from Hinds AHS. (Paul Ingram/For The Vicksburg Post)

St. Aloysius linebacker Taedrin Warnsley (32) hits Cathedral’s Dee Fleming in the season opener. Warnsley has been a key part of St. Al’s defense since transferring in from Hinds AHS. (Paul Ingram/For The Vicksburg Post)

At the end of last season, Taedrin Warnsley and Michael Fields became football orphans.

Their school, Hinds AHS, had been slated for closure by the Hinds County School District. When the War Dawgs bowed out of the playoffs with a second-round loss to Stringer, it was the end of a long and successful run in Utica for Warnsley, a standout running back and linebacker, and Fields, his coach.

As fate would have it, however, both men had a lifeline in Vicksburg and a remarkable second act.

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Warnsley enrolled at St. Al for his senior year and Fields was brought on board as an assistant coach. They’ve helped solidify an already strong team and put it on the cusp of the school’s first state championship appearance in 30 years. St. Al will host Coffeeville at 7 p.m. Friday in the Class 1A North State championship game.

“I appreciated that they brought me in, but they would have made it this far with or without me,” Fields said. “It’s just been a pleasure working with them. I’m glad (St. Al) coach (BJ) Smithhart gave me the opportunity to see (Warnsley’s) career finish.”

Fields, a Utica native, was the head coach at Hinds AHS from 2002 until it closed at the end of the 2013-14 school year. He led them to 72 wins and eight playoff appearances in 12 seasons.

Warnsley moved to Utica when he was in second grade. His father, Reginald, played running back for Southern Miss in the late 1980s, but Fields was just as constant a presence in his life when it came to football.

“Ever since I came here from Hattiesburg, I’ve been around him. I was a water boy before I was a football player,” Warnsley said.

While Fields provided the in-season coaching, Warnsley’s father kept him working during the summer and spring. Taedrin said his father would wake him up early to make sure he did his offseason workouts. When Hinds AHS closed, it was also his father who Taedrin said allowed him to come to St. Al while most of his former classmates went up Highway 18 to Raymond High School.

Fields, who has been friends with Smithhart for years, said he also talked to the family and suggested St. Al.

“I knew it would be a good fit for Taedrin. I’m just glad he decided to come on over and play,” Fields said. “We talked about it and knew it would be a good fit. Not just athletically, but academically.”

The work ethic instilled in the younger Warnsley helped him become a success on the field. He ran for 839 yards and eight touchdowns, and threw for 429 yards and four TDs as Hinds AHS’ quarterback last season.

At St. Al he’s settled into a role as a more physical runner who provides a change of pace from the speedier DeMichael Harris and Connor Smith. He only has 396 yards this season, but has made a much bigger impact as an enforcer in the Flashes’ linebacker corps.

Warnsley has 80 total tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. His hard-hitting style on the field and easygoing nature off it has endeared him to players, coaches and fans at his new school.

“He’s the eraser. When he tackles, they’re usually the ‘Oooh’ kind of tackles. He loves contact and he loves to make a splash,” Smithhart said. “He’s just a really good ballplayer and has a really good attitude. It could have been difficult, him coming over, fitting in. It didn’t take him any time at all. He’s just a guy people gravitate to. He’s got that football player-type attitude. He’s a tough guy on the field. He can bring the thunder with him. He’ll hit you.”

Warnsley credited his time at Hinds for his physical style of play.

“At Hinds, all we did was hit,” he said with a laugh. “I’m really a physical person.”

Warnsley’s success on and off the field has brought a smile to his old coach’s face. He and Fields are ready to push St. Al over the top and write a memorable footnote to the history of their former school.

“I’m proud of him. You always want to see people you’re associated with do well,” Fields said. “This is something that everybody who plays high school football wants to do. It’s something not many get to do. That says a lot, when you’re one of the teams still playing at this point of the season.”

On the radio

Friday, 7 p.m., 101.3 FM

Coffeeville at St. Aloysius

Class 1A North State championship

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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