Vikings survive comeback bid by Pearl

Published 1:36 am Saturday, August 27, 2016

PEARL — Warren Central went from the brink of a blowout to a close game — probably way closer than anyone on its sideline would have cared to get.

The Vikings, though, kept their poise and the lead, as well as their perfect record.

Pearl scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to chop a 21-point deficit to a single score, and had the ball in the final minute. Warren Central’s defense got a stop as time expired, though, and it escaped with a 28-21 victory Friday night.

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“We felt in control going into the fourth quarter. We must be better there. It’s an accumulation of a lot of different things. Our kicking game has got to get better. We’ll work on that.,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “We did some things that a really good football team could have put it away. We weren’t able to do that. But give a lot of credit to Pearl. They fought, and clawed, and made some big plays and got back in it. There’s some things we can work on, things that we can teach on. But ultimately we were able to win, which was very important.”

Joe Shorter ran for 113 yards and three touchdowns for Warren Central, and Demarcus Jones had 138 rushing yards on only six carries. Shonterrance Walton caught seven passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.

Walton caught a 21-yard touchdown pass and Shorter went 16 yards up the middle for another score in the third quarter to give the Vikings a 28-7 lead. They missed three chances to put the game away, though, and that opened the door for Pearl.

Two second-half drives inside the 20 ended in missed field goals. Another drive reached the Pearl 35-yard line before stalling.

Jake Smithhart threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Kelly early in the fourth quarter, and then directed a 10-play, 85-yard drive capped off by Johnny Winston’s 5-yard run to cut the Pirates’ deficit to 28-21 with 4:47 left in the game.

Smithhart finished 18-of-38 passing for 258 yards and a touchdown, while Winston rushed for 106 yards and two TDs. Kelly caught 10 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown, and Johnquarise Patterson had six receptions for 97 yards.

Warren Central’s second missed field goal, a 25-yarder with 38 seconds left, gave Pearl its final chance.

Smithhart missed on a deep ball to Patterson and was sacked on second down. After another incompletion on third down, Smithhart found Kelly near midfield on the final play of the game. Kelly had to jump to catch the pass in traffic, though, and was tackled immediately as time expired.

“It’s a win. But I think coming into the fourth quarter, we got behind and they caught up to us, so we had to get back on our horse,” WC defensive lineman Caleb Boyett said. “I don’t want to say we let off the gas. They’re a good football team, too. This was a major gut check. This is going to prepare us for the rest of the season. It tested our oil.”

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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