Vikings looking to gain steam heading into bye

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, September 9, 2015

In some ways, Friday’s game against Natchez might be the most meaningless one Warren Central plays this season.

It doesn’t have the heavy implications of a region game, or the aspects of a major rivalry like last week’s showdown with Vicksburg. Beating the Bulldogs (1-1), a middle of the road opponent, won’t bring the same prestige as a win over Wayne County or Pearl would have.

And yet, despite all that, it’s a game the Vikings would desperately like to win.

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A victory Friday would send them into their bye week with a 3-1 record and tons of momentum. A solid performance from an execution standpoint would give them confidence that they’re ready to hold their own against what looks to be a loaded Region 2-6A schedule.

“It’s important. We’re fixing to head into a bye week and then the district schedule, and you always want to be heading into that week with positive things going on and momentum. It helps the atmosphere and the mindset of our kids, and coming to work with a smile on your face. So it’s a big game,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said.

Through three weeks, the Vikings are grinning from ear to ear. They pulled out a last-second win over Pearl and then controlled their rivalry game against Vicksburg almost from start to finish.

The former was a 45-42 offensive shootout, the latter a defensive masterpiece reminiscent of the dominating defensive units of recent years. The Vikings held Vicksburg to 195 yards of total offense and registered four sacks.

Morgan said he’s been pleased with the progress of his defense, which was having to replace a half-dozen starters with two or more years of experience.

“From where we sit now, it’s been quite an improvement. Are we there yet? No, absolutely not. But the kids are getting better, and we’ve got to continue to do that,” Morgan said. “We need to work on creating turnovers more and we need to help our offense out, we need to be able to play more people. But we’ve made some pretty significant improvement the last couple of weeks with our defense.”

Natchez offers a different challenge for WC. It’s averaging 27 points per game so far and has a number of explosive playmakers on both sides of the ball. Containing them will be key, Morgan said.

“They’re typical Natchez. Their skills are very good. They’ve got a young quarterback who played last year and is smooth,” Morgan said. “They’re going to be very quick and explosive on both the skill positions on offense and the back end on defense. We’re going to have to be great tacklers in open space on defense, because they have some very good skill players.”

Offensively, Warren Central has gotten contributions from a number of different players. Seven have caught at least two passes and four have at least 50 rushing yards.

D.J. Knight leads the team with 168 rushing yards, but 116 of those came in last week’s win over Vicksburg. The previous week against Pearl, five players combined to run for 160 yards and three touchdowns.

Quarterback Jesse Wilson had 294 passing yards against Pearl, although he only attempted five passes the against Vicksburg.

“It’s not a one-man show by any means. (Offensive coordinator) Rob (Morgan) has done a great job of not letting people key in on any one person,” Josh Morgan said. “I think, before it’s all said and done, we need our offensive line to be our strength. Playing that number of guys and not relying on somebody in case of an injury, or we can spell them and keep our backs fresh, that all goes hand in hand with what we like to do.”

Warren Central’s schedule is broken down, roughly, into thirds when it comes to difficulty. The non-region schedule includes a couple of championship contenders, and the back half of the region schedule in October features dates with Clinton, Madison Central and Starkville — all teams that have been ranked in the Associated Press Class 6A Top 5 this season.

Madison Central is ranked No. 2 in this week’s statewide AP poll, and Starkville is No. 4. Clinton started the season ranked No. 3, but dropped out after losses to No. 1 South Panola and No. 5 Brandon.

Getting through the first portion with a winning record is an accomplishment, Morgan said, but there’s still some room to grow.

“It’s better than being 0-3. We knew it was going to be tough. It’s about becoming a better football team, and when you’re winning it helps so much,” Morgan said. “The experience that we’re getting in these tight football games we’ve been in, we’re sitting in a good spot and it’s very important that we finish this week off in a good way.”

Warren Central at Natchez

Friday, 7 p.m.

Radio: 105.5 FM

Online: For live scoring updates on Friday night, visit and

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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