Warren Central using summer practice, 7-on-7 sessions to plug gaps in its lineup

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 22, 2018

Unlike in past years, when it embraced the role of scrappy underdog, Warren Central football coach Josh Morgan said the Vikings are openly talking about their chances of making a run to the Class 6A championship this season.

“We’ve talked about it more this year than we ever have, as far as talking about it and mentioning it and dreaming about it. That’s our goal,” Morgan said. “Preparing for that kind of a moment in June and July, sometimes it’s hard to grasp, but our coaches and our senior leaders have done a good job. Right now it’s trying to find a way to gain an inch and an edge.”

It’s also trying to find solutions to potential trouble spots, which is what the Vikings are dialing in on this week. After spending 90 minutes at Monday’s practice doing 7-on-7 passing drills, they played several 7-on-7 games Tuesday at Pearl. On Friday afternoon, they’ll host another such session at Viking Field with a half-dozen teams participating.

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The pass-oriented scrimmages have their limits as far as usefulness, Morgan said, but will greatly benefit a team that’s breaking in a new quarterback and receiving corps, while also trying to find starters at three out of four positions in the defensive secondary.

“The 7-on-7 is good for certain things and not for others,” Morgan said. “It’s great for a quarterback to be able to go through his reads. It’s great for young playmakers to learn about spacing and different things that you get to slow down. It’s great for corners that have to cover for probably longer than they ever will in a game. That’s what we’re trying to use it for. It’s a good chance to see them in a competitive environment.”

The most high-profile position battle for the Vikings this summer is at quarterback. Junior Shane Lewis and senior Antonio Thompson are both vying for playing time.

It’s still too early to tell which one will emerge as the starter or if they’ll split snaps, but the summer work will be crucial to their development and the success of the offense since neither played for WC last season.

Lewis missed the entire season with a stress fracture in his back. Thompson was a two-year starter at St. Aloysius before transferring, but is new to Warren Central’s system. He also missed most of spring practice with a minor knee injury.

“It’s good, because it’s getting us work together. Some of the guys that are starting now didn’t get much playing time last year either,” Lewis said.

Lewis was unlikely to get many varsity snaps last season even if he was healthy, with 2017 Vicksburg Post Offensive Player of the Year Fred Barnum, Jr., ahead of him on the depth chart. He said he stayed sharp with mental reps in the film room, and was using the spring and summer to get back into a rhythm physically.

“Even though I was out, I still stayed close to Coach and listened and learned,” Lewis said. “I was up here every weekend watching film. So I feel like I have it mentally. I just have to get back into physical shape.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings are also breaking in a handful of new players. Senior safety Lamar Gray is the only returning starter among the four secondary positions. The 7-on-7 sessions will allow them to work on communication and building trust with each other, Gray said.

“We’re trying to build the young guys up and get them on the same page that we’re on,” Gray said. “People learn in different ways, so you don’t want to tell them how the old guys do things. You have to figure them out and see what they’re best at.”

That, Morgan added, was what the 7-on-7 sessions are intended to do. Coaches can observe and teach, and are often on the field alongside their players watching things unfold. During Monday’s practice session Morgan, a former Mississippi State safety, coached the secondary while his brother Rob — a former MSU quarterback and Warren Central’s offensive coordinator — coached the offense.

The two brothers took time to teach and coach between plays, but also showed a competitive fire that let players know even these laid-back workouts are serious business.

“We’re teaching them how to work and prepare ourselves. We’re having a good summer so far,” Josh Morgan said. “The biggest thing we’re trying to teach our guys is that you can’t treat this like it’s the offseason. This is a sense of urgency. The season is right around the corner and we have to prepare for it in that nature. But I like where our guys are at. They’re being accountable, and that’s a good sign.”

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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