Warren Central’s Morgan earns third Coach of the Year award

Published 8:10 am Monday, December 26, 2016

Josh Morgan readily admits the last play of Warren Central’s season still haunts him, which is understandable even six weeks after it happened.

The Vikings had blown a lead in the final minutes against Clinton and then gotten a reprieve by stopping an ill-advised two-point conversion attempt by the Arrows in overtime. An incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line on their own offensive series and the scene of tears and hung heads that followed will linger in everyone’s memory for a while.

The ride to get to that point, however, was one that will linger for an entirely different reason.
Warren Central won 10 games for the second year in a row and successfully navigated its way through a murderer’s row of Region 2-6A opponents to reach the playoffs. It won a road playoff game, took eventual state champion Clinton to overtime — after beating the Arrows in the regular season — and rose as high as No. 2 in the weekly Associated Press state poll.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am

It’s a laundry list of accomplishments Morgan said could only be appreciated after the season was over.

“It took us a little while to reflect. You’re never able to see what you’re doing while you’re doing it,” he said. “You’re careful not to pat yourself on the back during the year, because you’re grinding. But when you step back, it was a really good year and we played some good football. I can’t say enough about our guys. They did well.”

Well enough to give Morgan the Vicksburg Post’s 2016 Coach of the Year award. It’s the third time Morgan has won it in his seven seasons as Warren Central’s head coach. He also got it in 2012 and 2015.

Morgan’s three Coach of the Year selections is tied with former Porters Chapel Academy coach Randy Wright for second-most in the 30-year history of the award. Morgan’s father, Robert, won it 10 times during his long tenure at Warren Central.

“It’s an honor that’s much appreciated, with the programs and the coaches in our area,” Josh Morgan said. “It doesn’t get old, I can tell you that. I will gladly accept it on behalf of our coaching staff and all of our players.”

Morgan won a total of nine games in his first three seasons at Warren Central, but has since turned the program into a state championship contender. Since the start of the 2013 season, the Vikings are 37-13 and have posted back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since a three-year run from 1992-94.

This year’s 10-3 record matched last season’s mark, but it might have been Morgan’s best team yet considering who those 10 wins were against.

Early in the year, the Vikings won on the road at Class 6A South State champion Pearl and a nine-win Vicksburg squad in consecutive weeks. They beat an eight-win Northwest Rankin team and routed Clinton 50-32 during the Region 2-6A portion of the schedule.

In the first round of the playoffs, they rallied to knock off South Panola on the road with a touchdown in the final minute and then gave Clinton all it could handle in their rematch in round two.

Three players — quarterback Jesse Wilson and running backs Joe Shorter and Demarcus Jones — rushed for more than 1,000 yards. Jones and offensive lineman Malcolm Miller played in state all-star games. Jones and another lineman, Tra Winters, made the Class 6A All-State team.

It was the last run for a talented group of seniors, but also validation that Morgan and his coaching staff have built a strong program on Highway 27. This is the second large senior class that they will lose during this run of success, and there’s been little dropoff between them.

Winning championships is nice and is the goal, Morgan said, but requires as much luck as talent. Maintaining consistency and being in the mix — something he feels the Vikings have achieved — is more realistic, Morgan said.

To that end, this season wasn’t a breakthrough year for the program. It’s been more of a multi-year process.

“I feel like we’ve already broken through. We’ve been consistent and been able to win games,” Morgan said. “We’ll never be a team that’s ‘state championship or bust.’ That’s not realistic. Do we want to win a state championship? Absolutely. But it’s about being better as a team, better as a program, every week, and playing your best football. And then it’s the journey. We want to enjoy the journey and then we’ll live with the results.”

Morgan and the Vikings are about to embark on another journey with a new cast of players. Twenty-six seniors are graduating, including Wilson, Shorter, Jones and a slew of other skill players. These seniors went 29-9 in their three varsity seasons, but will now give way to the next generation.

Whether the next group will be able to continue Warren Central’s resurrected tradition remains to be seen. Morgan, though, feels like he’s helped build a strong program that’s able to replenish the talent pool and sustain itself for the long haul.

“It seems like the last couple of years we’ve had this talk,” Morgan said with a laugh. “Is it a concern? Sure. We lost nine offensive starters and maybe nine defensive starters. That’s where you have to lean on your program and your player development. Your young players and the ninth-grade and junior high programs. Hopefully we will be able to continue to be consistent and put a great product on the field.”

Vicksburg Post Coaches of the Year
2016 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2015 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2014 – BJ Smithhart, St. Aloysius
2013 – Tavares Johnson, Vicksburg
2012 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2011 – Alonzo Stevens, Vicksburg
2010 – Todd Montgomery, Central Hinds
2009 – Curtis Brewer, Warren Central
2008 – BJ Smithhart, St. Aloysius
2007 – Randy Wright, Porters Chapel
2006 – Jim Taylor, St. Aloysius
2005 – Randy Wright, Porters Chapel
2004 – Randy Wright, Porters Chapel
2003 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
2002 – Jim Taylor, St. Aloysius
2001 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
2000 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1999 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1998 – J.J. Plummer, Porters Chapel
1997 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1996 – Bubba Booth, St. Aloysius
1995 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1994 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1993 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1992 – Bubba Booth, St. Aloysius
1991 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1990 – James Knox, Vicksburg
1989 – James Knox, Vicksburg
1988 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1987 – Joe Edwards, St. Aloysius

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.

email author More by Ernest