Vikings not taking Greenville lightly
Published 8:57 am Thursday, September 29, 2016
The past few times Warren Central has played Greenville, it’s been akin to a bye week. The Vikings gave their backups significant playing time while winning five consecutive meetings by at least 31 points each.
That’s hardly the plan this time around.
Greenville has officially updated its program status from “dead in the water” to “dangerous and frisky.” The Hornets are 3-3, which surpasses their combined win total for the past three seasons and is already the most for the program since a 4-7 finish in 2010.
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Warren Central (5-0, 1-0 Region 2-6A) is one of only three undefeated teams left in Class 6A, but head coach Josh Morgan said he’s hammering home the point to his players that this is not the same Greenville team they’re used to facing.
“They’re dangerous. They were very close to upsetting Southaven and had South Panola tied at halftime,” Morgan said. “If we don’t handle it the right way, absolutely it’s a tough game. What good is last week’s win if we’re not successful this week? That’s the mindset we have to have.”
Greenville has not had a winning season or reached the playoffs since doing it in both 2001 and 2002. Those years were the only times it has accomplished both feats since the late 1980s. The program has gained a reputation for having talent that frequent coaching changes have made difficult to cultivate.
Finally, that seems to be changing. Phil Short — Greenville’s sixth coach in the past 12 years — is in his third season and has turned a corner. Greenville beat a solid Greenwood team in early September, and had regular powers South Panola and Southaven on the ropes before losing 22-7 and 28-6, respectively.
The Hornets beat Murrah 51-29 last week to snap a 25-game losing streak in Region 2-6A that dated to 2012.
“They’re just like everybody dadgum else now,” Morgan said with a laugh, referring to the stacked Region 2-6A lineup that includes three of the top five teams in this week’s Associated Press Class 6A poll. “You look at what they’ve been able to do, is the first thing that stands out. They’re 3-3 against a tough schedule. They’ve opened it up and have a lot of skill guys and a returning quarterback.”
That quarterback is junior Tayvon Littlejohn. He’s thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game this season, and has 1,542 yards and 14 touchdowns total. He’s thrown nine interceptions, with one in five of the Hornets’ six games.
Littlejohn also leads the team in rushing, with 365 yards and four TDs.
The willingness and ability to air it out is what makes Greenville so dangerous, Morgan said.
“Any time you face a team that can throw it and catch it, it makes them dangerous because that’s points on the board,” Morgan said. “It’s just another week in our district that we’ve got to prepare.”
The long-term prospects of both teams seem to differ. Warren Central, which is ranked No. 4 in this week’s Class 6A poll, has designs on a deep playoff run and possibly a state championship. For Greenville, simply making the playoffs would be a huge step forward.
For either team to accomplish its goals, however, it needs to win this week. Greenville can earn a win over a top contender, while Warren Central needs to make sure one of the seemingly easy victories it circles on the calendar every year doesn’t turn into a head-scratching loss.
“I think it’s about understanding this game counts as much as any other,” Morgan said. “Our full focus needs to be on this week, executing better, and getting in this game plan. I’d be telling you a story if I didn’t say I reminded our players of what they’re (Greenville) capable of doing.”
WARREN CENTRAL AT GREENVILLE
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