Vikings savor success as playoff journey begins

Published 8:38 am Monday, November 7, 2016

Warren Central coach Josh Morgan came into the fieldhouse Friday night, after his team had muddled its way through a tough 24-6 win over Callaway.

There were some things Morgan could have been upset or concerned with, but those weren’t on his mind. For the moment, he was all smiles.

“If we ever get to the point where we can’t celebrate a win,” Morgan told his coaching staff, which was chowing down on burgers and chicken sandwiches while joking with each other, “then we don’t need to do this any more.”

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Morgan’s Vikings completed a 9-2 regular season by beating Callaway and were one of the fortunate four teams from a brutally tough Region 2-6A to qualify for the Class 6A playoffs. The list of teams that did not make the cut included Callaway (7-5) and Starkville (8-4), which failed to reach the postseason the year after winning the Class 6A championship.

Warren Central’s third place finish in the region didn’t matter. The only thing that did matter was that it made it, while the battered and broken carcasses of talented teams littered the roadside behind them.

“This has been hard, and this has been challenging. And we knew it would be,” Morgan said. “We don’t want to look at the coulda-wouldas. We want to look at what we’ve got, understand it, and try to play our best football next week.”

With the regular season in the rearview, the Vikings will begin a new season this Friday. They’ll go on the road to play South Panola (7-5), a dynasty that has fallen on hard times by its extremely high standards.

South Panola’s five losses match its entire total from 2012-15. It finished second in Region 1-6A, just the second time in 15 years it has not won a region championship. After going 1-4 in non-region games, however, the Tigers won six of their seven league games. The lone loss was a 3-0 setback against undefeated and top-ranked Tupelo.

The second-half surge, Morgan said, is proof that this first-round matchup will be far from a cakewalk against a mediocre team.

“I can tell you this: As far as what we’re faced with, being the third seed and having to go on the road and we’re going to South Panola, that’s our task at hand. They are a good football team. It’s something that they’ve been building for years, that doesn’t just go away overnight,” Morgan said.

In the same breath, however, Morgan added that the Vikings won’t be intimidated by what South Panola has done in the past. This is the third consecutive year that Warren Central has won at least nine games — something the program hasn’t done since 1992-95 — and its coaches and players feel they can hold their own with anyone, regardless of pedigree.

“We’re up for the challenge. Don’t write these Vikings off just yet because we’ve got to go to South Panola,” Morgan said. “We understand we’re going to have to play at a higher level, but at the same time it’s just that time of the year. We’re in. There’s a lot of folks that are not. We will not be intimidated by who they are and what they’ve done, but we will respect them.”

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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