Rivals Warren Central, Madison Central meet in playoff rematch
Published 8:00 am Thursday, November 16, 2017
Playoff rematches are never easy. Between the familiarity of the teams, trying to find a new wrinkle or solve one developed by the other team, and dealing with the emotions of what is often a rivalry game, finding a path to victory can be tricky.
Warren Central, however, has been down this road before.
The Vikings (9-3) will host Region 2-6A rival Madison Central (10-2) in a second-round Class 6A playoff game Friday at 7 p.m. at Viking Field. It’s the third year in a row that Warren Central has played a region opponent in this round. It lost the first two times, and is hoping the third time is the charm.
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“Knowing your opponent is an advantage for both teams. You’ve seen how they match up and how they game plan. It’s like you’ve had a trial run. You see what worked and didn’t and tweak your game plan,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “You try to be as proactive as you can and try to stay ahead of the other team. It still comes down to your guys playing and executing.”
Warren Central and Madison Central are certainly no strangers to each other, having been regionmates since 1995. This will be the second time in three years that they’ve met in the postseason. Madison won 21-14 in a second-round game in 2015, one of six consecutive meetings that have been decided by a touchdown or less.
The latest game between the two was on Oct. 6. Madison Central rallied from an eight-point deficit in the second half and won 31-27 in double overtime. Morgan said part of the preparation for Friday’s showdown is remembering that the last one no longer matters.
“The way the game went last time, it was a tough loss. But at the same time, our kids have got to understand it’s a new game. A lot more is at stake now,” Morgan said. “It was a devastating loss, but our team knows it’s a second-round playoff game and we’ve got a shot at a team that got over on us before.”
Thanks to the setup of the MHSAA playoff system, the earlier loss might work in Warren Central’s favor. Second-round playoff sites are awarded to teams that have not yet played a home game. Madison Central’s regular-season win helped it finish second in Region 2-6A and earn a home game in the first round, while Warren Central finished fourth and had to go on the road.
Warren Central routed Tupelo 30-13 last week, and thus was rewarded with a home game this time. In a matchup that is expected to go down to the wire, Morgan said home field advantage is no small matter.
“We need our fans,” he said. “We’re fortunate enough to have a home playoff game, and we need our fans to be a factor. We need an electric atmosphere to help us pull out a win.”
A strong running game and defense won’t hurt, either. Madison Central was the last team to make a dent in the Vikings on either front.
The Jaguars ran for 291 yards, piled up 31 points, and held Warren Central to a season-low 70 rushing yards in their win last month. In five games since then — all victories — Warren Central has allowed a total of 23 points, just over 600 rushing yards, and is averaging 258.6 rushing yards per game.
Morgan was pleased with all of his players, but singled out the offensive line in particular. The Vikings have rushed for at least 240 yards in each of their past five games. Running backs Jerrious Stovall and Corey Wilson, as well as quarterback Fred Barnum, have each had at least one 100-yard rushing game in that span.
“They have probably been our most improved unit over the course of the season, and that’s the reason we’re winning,” Morgan said of his line. “When you see what they face week in and week out, and what we have to do to win, it’s impressive. We have multiple backs running well, and have the guys in front of them that know where they need to be and hit the point of attack. It’s a pleasant sight to see them gelling at the right time.”
MADISON CENTRAL AT WARREN CENTRAL
• Friday, 7 p.m.
• MHSAA Class 6A playoffs, quarterfinals
• Radio: 105.5 FM
• Online: For live updates Friday night, follow us at twitter.com/vixpostsports and