Warren Central reaps rewards after beating Clinton

Published 9:45 am Tuesday, October 25, 2016

When it took the field last Friday night, Warren Central was not in a desirable position.

It needed to beat top-ranked, undefeated, and seemingly unstoppable Clinton not just to keep pace at the top of Region 2-6A, but possibly just to get into the playoffs. A loss would have put the Vikings in a must-win situation on the road this week at defending Class 6A champion Starkville.

The Vikings did stop, beat, and hand Clinton its first loss of the season, 50-32, and left Viking Stadium on top of the world. The win catapulted Warren Central (8-1, 4-1 Region 2-6A) to the top of the region standings with two weeks left in the regular season, and possibly to the No. 1 ranking in the state when the latest Associated Press poll is released on Tuesday afternoon.

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“It helps us with getting in the playoffs with this tough old district we’ve got. It’s a really big win for a lot of different reasons,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “It was good to see our boys play at such a high level. We had a lot of focus tonight, and really all week. Big doesn’t really describe it.”

Besides the attention and confidence boost a blowout win over the former No. 1 team brings, the Vikings get to enjoy some tangible effects:

• They can clinch a playoff berth with a win either this week against Starkville or next week at home against Callaway, or a Northwest Rankin loss in one of its last two games.

Northwest Rankin finishes with games against Madison Central and Murrah.

• The 18-point margin of victory gives WC the edge in a three-way tiebreaker for first place with Clinton and Madison Central. All three teams are 4-1 in the region, with their losses coming amongst each other.
The first tiebreaker is point differential in those games. Warren Central is plus-9, Clinton is minus-3, and Madison Central minus-6.

While they’re in a much better position than they were a few days ago, however, the Vikings still need to put in some work. They must win their last two games to ensure a top-two finish and host a playoff game, and could still finish as low as fourth — and have to travel to face undefeated Tupelo in the first round — if they lose to Starkville (6-3, 3-2).

Because of that, they were keenly aware that the celebration following the big win over Clinton wouldn’t last long.

“If we do come out No. 1, we’re not slacking off. We played like champions tonight and we’re going to continue to play like champions. We’re not letting our foot off the gas. We’ve got a long season ahead of us,” defensive lineman Caleb Boyett said. “We’ll enjoy it for tonight and tomorrow, but this will be in the past come Monday and we’ll look forward. District 2-6A is the toughest district, and you don’t want to take that lightly.”

If the Vikings don’t want to sing their own praises, there are likely plenty of others in Mississippi willing to do it this week.

They piled up 245 rushing yards in the first half while building a 30-3 lead against Clinton, and then responded when the Arrows made a push to get back in the game.

Clinton scored two touchdowns to chop its deficit to 30-17 with 2:17 left in the third quarter. The two scoring drives each took less than two minutes, and at the same time Warren Central’s offense had stalled with back-to-back three-and-outs.

Clinton wasn’t able to recover an onside kick, however, and the Vikings scored two touchdowns of their own in a two-minute span early in the fourth quarter. Touchdown runs of 15 yards by Demarcus Jones and 3 yards by Jesse Wilson restored the lead to 43-17, and there was little doubt of the outcome after that.

“After we scored 30-3 and we came back out at halftime we knew it was going to be a dogfight. We couldn’t just let up. We had to keep pushing like it was 0-0,” Warren Central cornerback Shakee Shaw said.

In the end, it was a complete victory from start to finish. That, Morgan said, was what he was most proud of amidst all the hoopla.

“In the past it seems like we’ve had big games and we’ll play two or three quarters. We challenged them to play four whole quarters and they did it,” Morgan said. “We harped on playing team football, from field position to maintaining control of the game at the line of scrimmage, trying to make them one-dimensional. Everything we talked about doing as far as the coaching plan, our guys did it, they understood it, and did a really good job of executing it.”

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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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