Vikings use early-morning workouts to prepare for season

Published 11:55 pm Sunday, July 3, 2016

The sun was just beginning to peek over the trees and through the morning haze as Warren Central’s football team put the finishing touches on another offseason practice. It was 8:30 a.m., and two hours of weightlifting, running and on-field drills were already in the books.

The first game of the season is still six weeks away, but the Vikings know full well that days like this will determine whether they build on their recent success or slip into the abyss of mediocrity.

“We’ve had a good month,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said after practice last Tuesday. “We have a very important month coming up, and the guys are doing what is necessary to play in what we’ve got to play in. Not only the level of competition, but the weather. So we’re doing what it takes to be successful, and the guys are doing a really good job at it.”

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The July 4 weekend marks an important dividing line in Warren Central’s offseason training program. The past month has been spent on teaching fundamentals and physical conditioning. Next week is a “dead week” imposed by the Mississippi High School Activities Association, during which no activities can take place.

When the Vikings return from the dead week they’ll spend three weeks learning the playbook before preseason practice officially begins Aug. 1. After that, it’s a three-week sprint to the season opener on Aug. 19 against Oak Grove in the Red Carpet Bowl. They’ll play a jamboree game at Ridgeland on Aug. 12.

The compressed schedule in August, Morgan said, means the work the team puts in in June will lay the foundation for the regular season.

“You’ve really only got a week of practice, and then you’re playing in August. So what we do now is going to go a long way. Whether it’s good or it’s bad, we’re going to reap what we sow,” Morgan said. “We’re trying to do the right things to put our guys in the best shape they can be in.”

Warren Central’s June schedule consisted mostly of morning practices. The team worked out three times a week, for two hours a day, with activities beginning at 6:30 a.m. and wrapping up by 9 or 10.

It also participated in a couple of 7-on-7 tournaments and finished in the top eight at the prestigious Medicomp tournament in Madison June 25 and 26.

The combination of normal practice and instruction and live action, Morgan said, was designed to help a team that will have a number of players stepping into new roles. Warren Central lost 28 seniors from last year’s team that finished 10-3 and reached the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.

“We had a good showing and got a lot of valuable experience in,” Morgan said of the Medicomp tournament. “One of the biggest things about this team is the inexperience. But that’s stuff we can try to help them with by putting them in game-like atmospheres and situations. Losing as many seniors as we did, our guys have got to understand their new roles and what’s expected of them.”

Beyond learning the X’s and O’s, June has been an important time for the Vikings to figure themselves out, Morgan added. The crucible of June forges leaders and playmakers for September, October and November — in the eyes of both coaches and players. It’s a time for a team to form, not so much in playing ability but in personality.

“It’s imperative that we bond and come together,” Morgan said. That’s how you do it in this kind of stuff. Where everybody’s accountable and everybody’s doing the same thing, putting in a lot of hard work. It’s also a time where our leaders emerge and our guys know who to look to, and our identity takes form.”


Aug. 1: Preseason practice officially begins

Aug. 12: Jamboree game, at Ridgeland

Aug. 19: Season opener, vs. Oak Grove, 6 p.m. (Red Carpet Bowl, at Vicksburg High)

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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