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Vikings sidestep mistakes, penalties to beat Neville

Once Warren Central got out of its own way, Neville wasn’t much of an obstacle.

The Vikings had two touchdowns negated by penalties, a third denied by a fumble at the goal line, and gave up one after a fourth-down penalty kept a drive alive. Despite all of those self-inflicted wounds, they persevered and came away with a 17-7 victory over the perennial Louisiana power that was both easier than it looked and harder than it needed to be.

“It was great that we came out like we did. We knew this was going to be a big game and Neville is a good team. We wanted it and we came out on top,” said WC defensive end Damonte Stamps, who had two sacks. “We could have lost the game real early, but we fought through adversity, fought through penalties. I’m glad we were able to do that.”

Warren Central (3-1) wasn’t alone in having to deal with some adversity. Neville threw three interceptions, gave up two sacks, and finished with only 261 yards of total offense. Running back Demaine Riley accounted for a lot of those with 115 rushing yards.

The Tigers, who have won four state championships and played for two more in the past eight seasons, have now lost back-to-back games for the first time since they started 0-4 in 2010. They only lost a total of six games between that losing streak and this one.

“You just deal with it. It is what it is. Just like life. That’s what’s great about sports. You’re dealt adversity, and how do you handle it and what are you made of?” Neville coach Mickey McCarty said. “We’re not going to roll over. We’re going to keep fighting and playing. We know it’s a long season, and we want to be playing into November and hopefully into December, and that’s what our goal is. But we have a lot of improving to do that.”

WC got out to a fast start and then sidestepped its mistakes until it was able to finally put the game away in the fourth quarter.

The Vikings took the opening kickoff and scored on a 31-yard touchdown run by Corey Wilson Jr., then got an interception from Kevius McDaniel on Neville’s first possession to set up a field goal. Less than six minutes into the game, the Vikings had a 10-0 lead and then they themselves kept it from becoming a blowout.

Jalen Allen had a 60-yard interception return for a score wiped out by an illegal block. On the ensuing drive, quarterback Fred Barnum ran 35 yards to the end zone only to have it brought back by a holding call.

A fumbled snap on fourth down ended a drive at Neville’s 30-yard line. Wilson fumbled inside the 5 later in the second quarter as he was fighting for the goal line, and Neville recovered it in the end zone. A face mask penalty kept Neville’s only scoring drive alive after Joe Bouie was stopped short on fourth down at the Warren Central 30.

Bouie caught a 16-yard touchdown pass three plays later to trim the deficit to 10-7.

Warren Central finished the first half with six penalties for 50 yards.

“Penalties killed us this game. We just had a bunch, and that’s not like us. It was just a bad night for it,” said Warren Central defensive back Walt Hopson, who had an interception in the fourth quarter.

Warren Central finally put the game away on the first play of the fourth quarter. Jerry Stovall went off the left side of the line for an 18-yard touchdown run that made it 17-7.

Neville only crossed midfield on one of its six second-half possessions — on a drive started at the WC 45 — and with a two-score lead the Vikings could finally breathe easy.

They sacked Neville quarterback Jordan Thomas once more, and Hopson picked him off on the game’s final meaningful play to put an exclamation point on the win. Hopson reached over a Neville receiver to intercept the ball and returned it 40 yards to the Tigers’ 20.

“It was great getting that. I didn’t know if it was going to get in my arms or not, or if I was going to hit him. I couldn’t decide whether to hit or hit the ball, and it just came into my hands,” Hopson said. “After that play, people just forget about the bad things. You look up at the scoreboard and there’s a minute left and we’ve got the ball, and we’re up by 10 and we do something like that and seal the deal.”

Warren Central finished with 239 rushing yards. Barnum led the team with 80 yards on 12 carries and Wilson had 72 yards and a touchdown. Stovall had seven carries, all in the second half, for 32 yards and a TD.

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 sports reporters in the paper's 137-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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