Vikings not satisfied with close loss to top-ranked Pearl

Published 7:00 am Monday, August 28, 2017

PEARL — Warren Central traveled to Pearl on Friday night, jumped out to a two-touchdown lead on the team presumed to be Mississippi’s best, and pushed it to the limit before eventually losing 28-21.

It was the kind of performance that showed the Vikings are still championship contenders capable of matching up with anyone. It was also one that coach Josh Morgan adamantly refused made any sort of statement to the rest of Class 6A.

“We want to win, so no, as far as we’re concerned,” Morgan said. “We wanted to win and we’re very disappointed that we did not win this game. We thought we were going to win and expected to win.”

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But the Vikings didn’t win, and now they must collect themselves before the next big challenge in a schedule full of them. Vicksburg High — itself reeling following back-to-back losses to start the season — is coming to Viking Stadium this Friday for the annual River City Classic rivalry game.

A showdown with Louisiana powerhouse Neville follows next week. Finishing the non-region schedule strong is crucial not just to pushing Warren Central toward a winning record, Morgan said, but avoiding the kind of losing streak that can shake a team’s confidence.

“Our guys are hurting, I can tell you that. It meant a lot to them and the opportunity that we had in front of them,” Morgan said. “So that’s going to tell the rest of the season. If you let one loss be two losses, you’re in trouble because the schedule that we play we have no room for that. Hopefully we have a mature enough team to understand that this is a week-in, week-out deal. We’ve got to get better and learn from this, and get back at it next week for another really big ballgame.”

As frustrating as the loss to Pearl was, it was made moreso by the fact the Vikings seemed to have the upper hand for most of it.

They outgained Pearl 250 yards to 111 in the first half, and led 21-7 at the end of the first quarter. A field goal attempt was blocked on the final play of the first half, but quarterback F.J. Barnum still led the Vikings down the field by completing 5 of 7 passes for 50 yards in the final minute. Warren Central led 21-14 at halftime and then forced a punt on Pearl’s first possession of the third quarter.

The offense stalled, however, while Pearl’s finally got rolling.

After Anfernee Funchess ripped off a 15-yard run on WC’s first play of the second half, it gained only seven yards on its next six snaps. Sandwiched around those possessions was a 20-play, 75-yard drive by Pearl that tied the game at 21 late in the third quarter.

Warren Central moved the ball to the Pearl 31 on its next possession, but a holding penalty, an illegal block and a fumble ended the threat. After Pearl scored to take a 28-21 lead, WC could only get to midfield before turning it over on downs with 37 seconds to go.

In all, Warren Central gained just 83 yards on its four second-half possessions.

“We’re fine, and then we get these two penalties. Those back you up and it’s really hard to overcome that,” Morgan said. “But we had our chances to win.”

Despite his disappointment, Morgan said he was proud of his team’s effort. Pearl won the game more than WC lost it, he said, and it was hard to argue. The Pirates scored immediately after the Vikings had taken the 21-7 lead in the first quarter and moved the ball effectively on a number of drives.

“It wasn’t a meltdown, by any means,” Morgan said. “Those sons of guns are the number one team in the state. They were very resilient and they played like a bunch of seniors. Coming out of here, I’m really proud of our guys.”

Vicksburg at Warren Central
Friday, 7 p.m.
Radio: 1490 AM/107.7 FM (VHS) and 105.5 FM (WC)

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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