Warren Central begins tough road through Region 2-6A

Published 8:00 am Friday, September 21, 2018

One of the cruel facts about playing in Region 2-6A is that there are five perennial contenders for only four playoff spots. The seven-week region schedule is a game of musical chairs and attrition, where one outstanding team is always left out at the end.

Right now, Warren Central appears to be the fifth-best team in that rotation.

The Vikings (1-2) are entering their region opener Friday at home against Northwest Rankin (3-1) with a losing record at this point in the season for the first time since 2012. The four teams at the top of the standings — Northwest Rankin, Starkville, Madison Central and Clinton — have a combined record of 14-2, with some impressive wins already on their resumé. They have separated themselves not just from the rest of the region, but perhaps the rest of the state. All of them are ranked in the top 10 of this week’s Associated Press overall state poll.

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The Vikings can still play their way into the upper tier of the league, but need to kick it into gear beginning this Friday night.

“We know what our district is and how tough it is, but our approach is getting locked into a week-by-week approach. Right now, all our focus is on Northwest Rankin and on us,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “It’s all about us. It’s getting back to who we are.”

Region 2-6A has been the premiere division of Class 6A football the past three seasons. The North State champion and two of the last three state champions have come from Region 2-6A since 2015. The league’s teams have also lost just three playoff games against teams from outside the region in that span.

Northwest Rankin and Warren Central have both been part of that success, and their regular-season meeting has often been pivotal in determining either a playoff berth or seeding.

It has also, historically, been a closely contested matchup. Since they became region mates on a full-time basis in 2005, seven of 13 meetings have been decided by eight points or less. Northwest Rankin beat the Vikings 38-31 last season to snap a five-game losing streak in the series.

Northwest Rankin scored 42 points or more in each of its first three games this season before losing 34-13 to No. 4 Brandon last week. Morgan said the Cougars have a dangerous offense that poses problems for any opponent.

“They have four guys that can score from anywhere on the field, and that’s what they’ve been doing. Last year they hurt us with big plays,” Morgan said. “You have to cover the whole field and pursue the football, and do a good job of tackling in space.”

Current events and not history, however, is Warren Central’s primary concern this time around. It has had two weeks to stew over a disheartening 27-10 loss to Neville (La.) in its last outing. The Vikings only had 141 yards of total offense and suffered their first double-digit loss since a 28-10 loss to Starkville on October 30, 2015.

“We don’t have an identity and the consistency and intangibles our teams have been so successful with in the past. We have to get back to basics,” Morgan said. “It’s a different situation, no doubt about it. It’s still a lot of uncertainty about who our go-to guys are. We’re still searching for this team’s identity, but I look for us to make those improvements.”

The loss to Neville followed some up-and-down moments against Oxford, Pearl and Vicksburg in the first three weeks of the season. It’s become a pattern of uneven play that there is no longer time to shake out of if the Vikings are to make an impact in region play and extend their streak of playoff appearances to a seventh consecutive season.

Morgan said the opportunity is there to do just that, if the Vikings will reach out and seize it.

“That’ll take care of itself,” he said. “It’s been like this for several years. We have to live in the moment and take it one week at a time. When you’re playing a playoff team the winner gets a two-game lead on the other, so it’s a big game on many different levels.”

All games start at 7 p.m.

Vicksburg at Germantown (Radio: 107.7 FM)
Northwest Rankin at WC (Radio: 105.5 FM)
Union Christian at PCA (Radio: 104.5 FM)
St. Aloysius at Park Place (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Clinton at Madison Central
Port Gibson at Amite County
Riverfield Academy at Central Hinds
Collegiate Christian at Tallulah Academy
Humphreys Academy at Sharkey-Issaquena
Briarfield Academy at Prentiss Christian
Prairie View Academy at Rebul Academy
General Trass at Madison Parish

For live scoring updates on Friday night, follow us at vicksburgpost.com

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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