Thunderstorms wash out Red Carpet Bowl

Published 11:59 pm Friday, August 17, 2018

It was one, two lightning strikes and the Red Carpet Bowl was out.

Vicksburg’s signature football event was canceled for only the third time in its 56-year history Friday night when heavy rain and lightning swamped the city. Warren Central and Oxford waited out a 1 hour, 10 minute delay in the first game of the doubleheader before a second lightning delay with 10:13 remaining in the third quarter brought an end to the festivities.

Warren Central was leading Oxford 14-6 when the game was called and ruled a no contest. The second game, Clarksdale vs. Vicksburg, was canceled. Neither will be rescheduled.

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“It just came down to making a decision with our administrators of what’s best for the kids,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “They’ve got to get back home. Waiting on lightning that we saw on radar was not going to let up, and there’s another two teams waiting to play as well. That was a decision we all made and everybody was on board with it.”

The Red Carpet Bowl was also canceled in 1975 and 1986, but both of those were when it was a postseason game and no teams were available to play in it. This was the first weather postponement since the game was founded in 1962.

The Red Carpet Bowl is a non-profit charity fundraiser whose ticketing system operates independently of the Vicksburg Warren School District. Proceeds go toward scholarships for Warren County high school students and to fund the game’s operations.

Although less than one half of the doubleheader was played, Red Carpet Bowl committee chairman Calvin Masterson said no refunds would be given.

“As far as I know, as long as you entered the game and saw one quarter you’re not going to get a refund. It would be too hard to do that based off of who bought tickets, because we really didn’t keep a number and keep up with who bought tickets,” Masterson said, adding that the money will go to a good cause. “The money the Red Carpet Bowl makes always goes back to the students. We always give scholarships, and this past year we were able to give twice as many scholarships as we normally do because of the fan support.”

Warren Central and Oxford kicked off on time at 5:30 p.m., and played exactly one quarter before the first lightning delay. After Corey Wilson scored on a 13-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first quarter and John William Madison kicked the PAT to give the Vikings a 14-0 lead, a bright flash of lightning startled the crowd and sent both teams to the locker rooms.

A torrential downpour and a 1 hour, 10 minute delay followed. The Vikings and Chargers made it through a scoreless second quarter and then remained on the field as halftime was shortened to a brief three-minute break.

“We were trying to get the teams behind us to start on time,” Morgan said. “We had been in there an hour and 10 and we didn’t necessarily need it. We didn’t feel like the kids were at risk from not having a halftime, so we made that decision.”

Mother Nature was having none of it, however. Oxford took the second half kickoff and drove down for a touchdown, scoring on an 8-yard run by quarterback John Meagher to cut it to 14-6. As the Chargers lined up for the extra point the teams were taken off the field again by the officials, and another loud thunder clap and lightning flash moments later signaled that it was a wise decision.

After a brief conference between coaches and officials, the decision was made to call it a night.

“It was tough. You get going and then come back in for an hour and 10 delay, then it’s halftime and you stay out there and you’re getting into a routine, and then you’re stopping again. That’s just stuff that’s out of our hands. It’s out of everybody’s hands,” Morgan said. “I thought everybody did a good job tonight of trying to do what was right by the kids, and I think the right decision was made.”

While Warren Central at least got half of a game in, Vicksburg High wasn’t as fortunate. The Gators were originally scheduled to kick off against Clarksdale at 8 p.m. — about 10 minutes before the WC-Oxford game was halted for the final time.

Vicksburg coach Tim Hughes, his Clarksdale counterpart Henry Johnson and officials huddled together in the fieldhouse to run through their options. After looking at a rain-filled radar screen, the prospect of waiting at least an hour to start with the potential for more delays seemed unappealing enough to cancel the game.

“The option was, all of a sudden, where we were going to have an 8 o’clock start now you’re only an hour behind if you want to wait until 9 or 9:30. But they said there was another front coming back through and it was inconsistent, and I understand that part of it. But for me and my job, what we do is we want to play football,” said Hughes, who was set to make his debut as the Gators’ head coach.

Vicksburg Warren School District athletic director Preston Nailor said the long rides home for both Oxford and Clarksdale also played a role in the decision to scrub both games.

“After speaking to both coaches, they’ve got to travel back to Clarksdale and there’s no need to put his team in danger traveling as well as playing. There’s no need to put our kids in a dangerous situation either. We’ll literally live to play another week,” Nailor said. “It’s tough, but it’s the right call to preserve the lives of our kids.”

Vicksburg will now wait an extra week for its opener, and two weeks for the home opener. It’ll go on the road to face Clinton next Friday and then hosts Warren Central the following week.

Hughes admitted not getting to play was disappointing, but tried to be philosophical about the situation.

“I’ve been in situations, probably three times, where a game has been bounced. Last year it happened for us in South Texas when (Hurricane) Harvey hit,” Hughes said. “We hadn’t been in a game yet, and we were done for two weeks. We couldn’t practice football, we couldn’t do anything. So it was almost like a reboot. That’s not this situation. Things are up and down. That’s what happens in games, and that’s what happens in life.”

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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