Warren Central scores in the final minute to knock off South Panola

Published 1:13 am Saturday, November 12, 2016

Down to its last chance, a promising season hanging by a thread, Warren Central needed a miracle.

It got it.

Jesse Wilson scrambled out of trouble and threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Jones on a fourth-down play with less than a minute left, as the Vikings stunned South Panola 28-23 Friday night in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.

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“The good Lord was good to us, I can tell you that,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “It came down to a play where it was winning time. Our playmakers made plays in a big-time situation.”

Wilson ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and was 10-of-16 passing for 139 yards. Jones had the one receiving TD and another on the ground. South Panola quarterback Patrick Shegog rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown, and completed 14 of 25 passes for 188 yards.

The Vikings (10-2) advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season — the first time they’ve done that since 2001-02 — and will host Clinton (11-1) next Friday at 7 p.m.
Clinton beat Hernando 63-35 in another first-round game on Friday.

The Warren Central-Clinton game will be a rematch of their Region 2-6A showdown on Oct. 21, which Warren Central won 50-32.

“We’ve got them at home. We’re going to need our crowd to help us win that ballgame,” Morgan said. “We’re going to enjoy this one and get onto Clinton on Sunday.”

The rematch with Clinton figures to be a stiff test, but it could hardly be any more stomach-churning than what the Vikings had to endure against South Panola (7-6). The program that has won nine state championships since 2003 and battled back from a 1-4 start this year to finish second in Region 1-5A showed its championship mettle by overcoming a two-touchdown deficit in the first half.

Shegog scored on a 21-yard run with a minute left in the first half, Blaine Ware kicked a 28-yard field goal late in the third quarter, and the Tigers took their first lead of the game, 23-21, on a 2-yard run by Jamichael Robinson with 9:35 remaining.

After Wilson scored on a short run to put the Vikings up 21-7 early in the second quarter, they didn’t score again until the game-winning touchdown.

“We started the game off very well. We came out ready to play. They got a score there right before halftime that got them back in the game,” Morgan said. “They had the ball a lot. We couldn’t get much going offensively.”

After an exchange of punts following Robinson’s go-ahead touchdown, Warren Central got the ball back at its own 7-yard line with about five minutes to go. It moved to the South Panola 41-yard line before stalling, and faced a fourth-and-10 there with just under a minute to go.

Wilson was rushed after taking the snap, and scrambled around long enough for Jones to break free of the coverage. Wilson threw deep, and Jones hauled it in. He dragged a South Panola defender the last few yards into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 44 seconds left.

South Panola had two chances in the final seconds to win it. It moved the ball to midfield with 12 seconds left, but two hail mary passes into the end zone fell incomplete and the Vikings got out of Batesville with the victory.

“It came down to, basically, our last play on offense. Jesse did a great job of extending the play,” Morgan said. “They have a good defensive front. We had trouble slowing down their pass rush all night. The play was designed to go to DeMo. He got open and Jesse got it to him.”

Daily Panolian sports writer Brad Greer contributed to this story.