Returning players maintain Warren Central’s prominent defense

Published 12:35 pm Friday, October 23, 2015

Warren Central safety Byron Galvin celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Murrah Friday night at Viking Stadium. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Warren Central safety Byron Galvin celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Murrah Friday night at Viking Stadium. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Two months ago, Warren Central’s defense seemed like it should’ve had question marks on their jerseys instead of numbers given the number of concerns surrounding it.

Could they replace three all-state players? Could the returning players quickly step into bigger roles, and the new ones adapt to full-time duty? Could they maintain the same high standards that made the Vikings the top defense in Class 6A two years running?

Yes, yes and yes.

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Since giving up 42 points in each of their first two games, the Vikings have allowed a total of 79 in their last six. They’ve shut out opponents in six of their last eight quarters and scored five touchdowns of their own.

In other words, the new guys are doing just fine.

“We’re just about there,” said junior defensive back Kamren Ellis, who had 11 total tackles and an interception in last week’s 35-6 win over Murrah. “We started off bad, missed assignments and all that stuff. With new starters, and seniors that are gone, most people would think that’s a burden. But we just took it as a challenge and accepted it. We played on through, and we’re about there.”

Where the Vikings (7-1) are is heading toward the Region 2-6A championship.

They’ve won seven straight games since losing 42-28 to Wayne County in the season-opening Red Carpet Bowl, and are 4-0 in region play. The winning streak has them in a three-way tie for first place with Clinton (6-2) and Starkville (8-1), which happen to be the next two opponents on the schedule.

All three frontrunners have clinched playoff berths, and Clinton and Starkville play each other in the regular season finale Nov. 6 in Starkville. That means the next three weeks are essentially a round-robin playoff for the region title. The first- and second-place teams will host first-round playoff games.

Warren Central plays at Clinton Friday night at 7, and hosts Starkville the following week. Defensive back Byron Galvin said the Vikings are taking them one at a time.

“We’re not even looking at Starkville right now. We’re focused on Clinton. We’re going to get it. We’re going to work hard this week,” said Galvin, who has 42 total tackles this season.

While the Vikings have been impressive on defense in recent weeks, they will have a few things to clean up from last week’s win over Murrah.

Warren Central drew six offsides penalties in the first half, and as a team was penalized 13 times for 100 yards. Murrah also held the ball for more than 33 minutes and had three drives that lasted at least five minutes apiece.

Despite the lopsided edge in time of possession, the Mustangs didn’t score until only 1:22 remained in the game. Warren Central held them to 2-for-6 on fourth-down conversions — one conversion was successful because of an offsides penalty — and 239 yards of total offense.

The Vikings had five sacks in the game, one of them on fourth down by Caleb Watts, and forced two turnovers. One of the turnovers was Galvin’s 4-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the first quarter.

“The way we were messing up, and how we won, it just says we’re a tough team. We’re mentally tough and we just go on to the next play,” Ellis said.

Ellis added that he was proud of how far the Vikings have come in a relatively short period of time. After losing cornerback Chris Stamps to Mississippi State, linebacker DeArius Christmas to East Mississippi Community College, and several other key starters to graduation and the junior college ranks, not much was expected of the rebuilt defense.

Not only has it exceeded expectations, it’s looking to be in championship form — and not necessarily just a region championship.

“We’re proud of it, because if you look back to the first game of the season we started off with 31 missed tackles. Now we’re only getting, at the most, four or five and we’re getting our assignments right,” Ellis said. “As long as we get our assignments we can hold up to anybody. So we’re kind of proud we’re doing it like this.”

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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