Vikings, Arrows cling to playoff hopes in 2-6A tilt

Published 7:00 am Thursday, October 18, 2018

Before the season started, and even during the early parts of it, Warren Central and Clinton both had big dreams.

Warren Central seemed to have established itself as a legitimate state championship contender. Clinton started 4-0 and appeared to have done the same. Then the brutal grind of life in Region 2-6A started to take its toll.

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Warren Central (3-4, 2-2 Region 2-6A) lost four of six, while Clinton (6-2, 2-2) took a pair of losses to Region 2-6A heavyweights Northwest Rankin and Madison Central. The dreams of August have given way to a cold, hard reality of October — whatever championship aspirations either team has hinge on their game Friday night at Viking Stadium.

“It’s both teams in the same situation. You’ve got two teams that need the same thing, so it’ll be a great game. Both teams have a lot at stake and a lot to play for,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “The stakes are higher. There’s more to gain and more to lose than any other game we’ve played. It has the makings of a really big game.”

Elimination game

There are four available playoff spots in Region 2-6A and five quality teams vying for them. That makes the games between the five contenders doubly important, especially when head-to-head tiebreakers are factored in, and in this case it makes the WC-Clinton matchup an elimination game.

Both the Vikings and Arrows have two region losses already and three — which one of them will have after Friday night — appears to be the magic number that will keep a team out of the playoffs. Madison Central and Starkville have one region loss and Northwest Rankin is undefeated with three games remaining.

Mathematically it might be possible for the WC-Clinton loser to still get in, but realistically Friday’s game is it.

“We know that there’s five bonafide playoff teams in our district and a lot of parity,” Morgan said. “The matchups can go in the favor of one team or the other. We know this will be just another dog fight in 2-6A.”

Warren Central is coming into this crucial game banged up and possible short handed.

Leading rusher Jerrious Stovall (815 yards, eight touchdowns) injured his shoulder last week against Murrah and his status is uncertain. Third-stringer R.J. Hughes had started to get a few more carries in recent weeks, but tore his ACL in practice last week and is out for the season. That leaves Corey Wilson (489 yards, two touchdowns) as potentially the only healthy and experienced running back against Clinton.

Sophomore Kentrick Thompson had nine carries for 60 yards and a touchdown against Murrah, but had had a total of four carries all season before that.

“He’s (Stovall) a big part of what we do offensively and our workhorse. But somehow, some way, we’ve got to go. We’ve got to find ways to win,” Morgan said. “We’ll find a way and have a lot of confidence in what we’re doing.”

Last week’s 39-18 win over Murrah, Morgan added, also inspired confidence. The Vikings trailed 18-10 at halftime before rallying for 29 unanswered points in the second half.

It was a much more difficult game than most people expected, caused by a variety of factors. Morgan, however, was glad the Vikings were able to stare down some adversity and come through victorious on the other side.

“It could have been disastrous. We were looking at two different roads to our season at halftime,” he said. “It’s nothing but positives. It shows how important our approach is to games. It goes a long, long way. Now that said, we can’t afford that this week. We’ve got to put up four good quarters.”

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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