Why can’t local football teams catch one break?

Published 8:48 am Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Mississippi High School Activities Association will play its football state championship games Friday and Saturday in Starkville, and there will be some fresh blood among the 12 teams competing.

In Class 6A, Pearl will is making its first championship game appearance since 1985 and Clinton its first since 2000. Neither team has won a title since the MHSAA adopted its playoff system in the early 1980s.
There’s also plenty of familiar faces that are in the mix every year, like Charleston in Class 3A and Laurel and West Point in 5A.

The first group of teams, it’s hard not to feel good for. Seeing pretty much anyone except South Panola there is refreshing. The latter group, however, makes me want to pull my hair out as a follower of Warren County football. How do they do it year after year, when our local teams can’t ever seem to break through?

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This will mark the 21st time in 22 years that no Warren County team will be among those competing for a state championship. There are a lot of reasons behind it, of course, that are beyond anyone’s control. Talent runs in cycles, and we went through a dry spell in the late 2000s right when other areas peaked.
Some of it is just plain bad luck.

Like in 2002, when Vicksburg lost 55-54 to Horn Lake on a missed PAT in overtime. Earlier in the game, star running back Phelan Gray was running uncontested to the end zone for a long touchdown when he simply lost control of the ball and Horn Lake recovered.

Warren Central missed one opportunity in 2004 when running back Larry Warner — the best I’ve seen during my 18 years in Vicksburg — sprained his ankle in a first-round game against Tupelo. The Vikings lost 3-0.

This year, it was a 27-21 overtime loss to Clinton. I’ve watched the last play of that game 20 times and still don’t know how that pass fell incomplete.

Our local teams’ playoff struggles show just how hard it is to win a state championship. You need to have a good team, but you also need to catch a break or two. An above average team can get there if things fall the right way, but without a break or two even the best teams can come up short.

Maybe 2017 will be the year when things fall into place for the Gators and Vikings. I mean, some of these other teams make it look so easy that it can’t be that hard, right?

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

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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