Longtime rivals WC, Madison Central ready for round two

Published 9:10 am Thursday, November 19, 2015

Over the span of 20 years, Warren Central and Madison Central have played a lot of memorable games.

They’ve met in the Red Carpet Bowl. They’ve played for region championships and purely for pride. There have been blowouts, upsets, and last-second miracles.

Never in the series, however, has there been a game of this magnitude.

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Warren Central (10-2) and Madison Central (8-5) will meet in the postseason for the first time when they square off Friday night in Madison in a second-round Class 6A playoff game. The winner advances to next week’s North State title game against either Starkville or Clinton and gets to bask in the glow of a truly memorable season.

The loser is finished after a merely good year, and will begin the task of building for the next one.

Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said it’s no secret which side his team expects to land on.

“It’s no more ‘Shock the world’ mentality. It’s expecting to win and being the better team. That’s where we are in our program,” Morgan said. “Confidence and experience are so important, and those two things are going on for us right now. We have to monitor that and stay focused and stay happy.”

Madison Central leads the all-time series 15-7, but Warren Central has won the last two — including a 16-6 victory in Madison on Oct. 9. That victory, though, seems like ancient history.

Madison Central was in the middle of a stretch of five losses in six games that nearly knocked it out of playoff contention. It has since rebounded to win four in a row, capped off by last week’s stunning 14-8 road upset of defending Class 6A champion South Panola in the first round of the playoffs.

Before their midseason slump, the Jaguars had also claimed victories over Meridian, Brandon and Oxford, all of which are still alive in the playoffs. Only three of their 13 games have been against teams with losing records.

“It’s such a long season. They started off by beating some good teams,” Morgan said. “We knew they were extremely talented. It’s almost like you’re preparing for a different team.”

Warren Central, meanwhile, has plotted a straight and steady course to reach this point. It lost its opener to Class 5A power Wayne County and again late in the season to Region 2-6A champion Starkville, but otherwise has made it through unscathed. It’s the first time the Vikings have won 10 games in a season since 2004, and last week’s first-round win over Tupelo was their first in the playoffs since 2002.

This is all new to his players, but Morgan said he’s been pleased with the way they’ve handled things.

“As long as it’s been since we won a playoff game, it felt like we’d been there before,” Morgan said. “There was a sense of accomplishment, but also a sense of ‘Let’s do it again next week.’ We went out and shook hands, and there wasn’t a lot of hollering. Our goal was not to win a playoff game. It’s to win a state championship. The kids were confident and expected to win.”

Senior defensive back Jeremy Lewis, who has 65 tackles and three forced fumbles this season, said that businesslike approach is an attitude that’s been ingrained in he and his teammates.

“Week in and week out we press on hard, preparation, keep on going, never getting too cocky but knowing what we’re going to do. We handle our business and get the W,” Lewis said.

With one more “W,” these Vikings will enter rare air.

Warren Central made the playoffs every year from 1985-2004, but it has only been beyond the second round three times — in 1988 and 1994, when it won the Class 5A championship, and in 1993 when it lost in the state title game.

The 2015 Vikings have already accomplished a lot, but they still want a lot more.

“We’re the hungry dog, not the fat dog,” junior running back DeMarcus Jones said. “I know the team ain’t been there in a long time. We can make history. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Warren Central at Madison Central

Class 6A playoffs, 2nd round

Friday, 7 p.m.

Radio: 105.5 FM

Online: For live scoring updates on Friday night, visit Facebook.com/thevicksburgpost or Twitter.com/vicksburgpost

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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