Vikings’ running back Stovall breaking off big plays
Published 8:00 am Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Three weeks ago, after Jerrious Stovall ran for more than 100 yards and three touchdowns on a muddy field to lead Warren Central to a 23-0 win over Starkville, head coach Josh Morgan called him a “dirty runner” that could grind out tough yards between the tackles.
Stovall has started to show he can be pretty electrifying, too.
The sophomore running back had a 59-yard touchdown run in that win over Starkville, and added a 75-yard score to his highlight reel in a 30-13 win over Tupelo in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs last week. He’s rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the last three games.
Email newsletter signup
“I don’t know where that comes from. I get the ball, and all I think about is getting into the end zone. Then that’s what I do,” Stovall said.
The big plays and big games have been part of a late-season surge that’s turned Stovall into a potent piece of the Vikings’ rushing attack and led them into a second-round showdown with Region 2-6A rival Madison Central (10-2) this Friday night at Viking Stadium.
“He hit another gear tonight that I hadn’t seen,” Morgan said after the win over Tupelo. “The more playmakers you get, the better, and he has given us a spark.”
In the past three games — wins over Starkville, Provine and Tupelo — Stovall has rushed for 287 yards and three touchdowns on only 22 carries. He’s averaging 13 yards per carry in those three games, and the yardage accounts for nearly half of his season total of 595.
Stovall also had 86 yards and a touchdown against Murrah.
Stovall is still part of a crowded backfield by committee that includes quarterback F.J. Barnum and running backs Anfernee Funches and Corey Wilson, Jr.
Wilson is the primary back and leads the team with 883 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s also the only one of the four with more than 100 carries.
Stovall has jumped into the No. 2 slot for rushing yardage and touchdowns — he has nine — with his recent hot streak. He only has 79 carries this season and is leading the team with a 7.5-yard average. He had 214 yards in Warren Central’s first seven games of the season.
“He’s been back there all year. He’s just earning the coaches’ trust more and more, and he’s a player that’s taking advantage of his opportunities,” Morgan said. “He keeps that up and he’ll get even more opportunities.”
Morgan also noted that Stovall’s recent success is indicative of someone else’s stellar play. Warren Central (9-3) has rushed for at least 240 yards as a team in every game during its current five-game winning streak. That’s a sign, Morgan said, that the offensive line is blowing open holes for all of the backs.
The Vikings rushed for 244 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry last week against a Tupelo defense that had been allowing about 75 yards per game to that point. It marked the first time Tupelo (11-1) had allowed more than 200 rushing yards in a game this season.
“Our offensive line needs to be really complimented. They’ve been playing really well,” Morgan said. “For our offensive line to be able to do that against a front seven that was dominating games the way they had been is really, really impressive.”
Now the Vikings need to keep it up against another formidable defense in Madison Central. The Jaguars are allowing only about 85 yards per game on the ground and held Warren Central to 70 in a 31-27 overtime win on Oct. 6. That was Warren Central’s lowest rushing total of the season — in fact, the only time it has been held to less than 100 yards — and also its last loss. Coincidentally, Warren Central has been held to less than 100 yards only three times since the start of the 2015 season. Two of those were against Madison Central.
A lot of things went wrong for the Vikings in that last meeting with the Jaguars, from a couple of controversial calls to a missed field goal at the end of regulation that would have won it. Throw in a festering rivalry with their region rival that breeds both respect and contempt, and it’d be easy for the Vikings to come out this Friday seeking a healthy dose of revenge.
Morgan, however, said the best thing to do is to forget all about it.
“That game is over with, and they won and we lost. We’re a little bit different team and they are too,” Morgan said. “The Lord works in mysterious ways, and maybe he’s got a better plan for us and this is part of it.”