South Panola’s loss opens door in Class 6A

Published 11:16 pm Saturday, November 14, 2015

When the sun rose over Mississippi on Saturday morning, it seemed a little brighter to the eight teams left in the Class 6A playoffs. The songs of the birds were a little nicer, the taste of their morning coffee a little sweeter.

South Panola was out. South Panola. The team that has become synonymous with success in Mississippi high school football, lost. In the first round. To fourth-seeded Madison Central.

It was news that sent a shockwave across the state and was welcomed with open arms. With the team that has played in the Class 5A or 6A championship game 14 of the last 20 years — and that went undefeated in the regular season this year — no longer in the bracket, the path to the championship game is wide open for the first time in nearly two decades.

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“From the fact that they’ve been so dominant, not only winning but winning championships, that realistically makes it wide open,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “We knew we were going to be on the road either way. We’re excited that we only have to drive 45 minutes instead of three hours.”

Besides Madison Central, which extended its season, Morgan’s Vikings seemed like the biggest beneficiary of Friday’s upset. They would have had to go to Batesville this week to play South Panola on its home turf. Instead, they’ll have a short drive to Madison to play the Jaguars.

Warren Central has won once already this season at Jaguars Field, 16-6 on Oct. 9. Morgan insisted, however, that the shorter drive was the real reason he was happy to face Madison Central instead of South Panola.

“It’s more of a familiarity. It’s somebody in our district, and that our kids have grown up playing. That’s in our favor. We didn’t mind going to South Panola. It really is having that short drive instead of a long one,” Morgan said.

Warren Central has won two in a row in its series with Madison Central. Morgan added that the same familiarity that made this matchup good for the fans works against the coaches and players in devising a game plan. Whatever worked a month ago isn’t likely to again, and both teams must adjust accordingly.

“We’re going to have to treat it like it’s another team, because it’s been four or five games and teams change a lot over that time,” he said. “It’ll be one of many challenges this week, is making sure the kids get regrouped and locked in. The one earlier in the year is not nearly as important as this one.”

Madison Central’s upset helped mark a power shift in the North half of the Class 6A bracket. Since 1993, when the current four-region alignment was adopted for the state’s largest classification, this is the first time Region 2 has swept Region 1.

Region 2 has traditionally consisted of schools located along I-20, with a few outliers like Starkville and Greenville, while Region 1 is made up of schools from North Mississippi.

Warren Central beat Tupelo 45-20 for its first playoff victory since 2002. Clinton knocked off Columbus, 56-22, and Starkville routed Olive Branch 46-24. Madison Central won 14-8.

Those four winners have all been ranked in the top five of the Associated Press Class 6A poll at one time or another this season. All were behind South Panola, and all have had their share of playoff misfortune at the hands of the Tigers. The four Region 2-6A playoff teams are a combined 5-33 against South Panola since 1996. Starkville and Warren Central had not beaten South Panola in that span.

Now, the Region 2-6A teams will slug it out amongst each other for the right to represent the North in the Class 6A championship game Dec. 4 at Ole Miss’ Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

“That’s something that’s not easy to do,” Morgan said of the region’s first-round sweep. “Our district was really tough and competitive. I still feel Northwest Rankin could be a playoff team, as well. It’s an extremely tough district.”

Warren Central at Madison Central

MHSAA Class 6A playoffs, second round

Friday, 7 p.m.

Radio: 105.5 FM

Online: For live scoring updates on Friday night, follow The Vicksburg Post at 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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