Vikings stomp Provine to earn playoff bid

Published 1:07 am Saturday, November 3, 2018

Warren Central probably could have cruised through Friday’s regular-season finale with Provine and sleepwalked its way into the Class 6A playoffs. It didn’t need to win to clinch a berth, and Provine was an opponent with nothing to play for.

The Vikings did not take that approach.

Warren Central turned three first-half turnovers and a special teams blunder into four touchdowns, dominated Provine defensively, and routed the Rams 34-13 to head into the postseason on a high note.

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Jerrious Stovall and Lamar Gray each ran for two touchdowns as the Vikings (5-5, 4-3 Region 2-6A) racked up 295 rushing yards and 429 total yards. Stovall had 104 yards for his sixth 100-yard game of the season.

“We challenged them all week that it was about us and playing a certain way. I really thought the first half that we did that. We started really fast, had some things go our way, some turnovers, and defensive touchdowns,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “We wanted to make sure we won, but we wanted to play a certain way for the momentum going into the playoffs. That was really important. We wanted to win, but we wanted to win and be sharp doing it.”

Warren Central could have clinched a playoff berth even with a loss — Clinton had to beat Starkville to knock WC out, and lost 41-14 — but earned the fourth and final spot from Region 2-6A in every sense of the word.

The reward is a trip to undefeated and top-ranked Horn Lake (11-0), which won the Region 1-6A championship. It’s the third year in a row Warren Central will go on the road for the first round. It won the previous two times, at South Panola in 2016 and at Tupelo — which was also undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state — last year.

“It gives us a lot of confidence. We know what we’re capable of. We’ve done it before and we’re going to do it again,” WC senior offensive tackle Reed Buys said.

The Vikings also survived an up-and-down season to get to this point. They lost two home games in the final minute, led Oxford in the third quarter when the game was called because of severe weather, and will need a win next week to ensure they don’t finish with a losing record for the first time since 2011.

“It’s been a tough year. We’ve definitely had some tough losses,” Buys said. “We’re pumped. That season is over, so we’re looking at 0-0 and making a run for the state championship.”

Before beginning their new season, the Vikings emphatically closed out the old one.

On the third play of the game, Provine quarterback Shavario Allen tried to throw the ball away to avoid a sack and dumped it right into the arms of linebacker Kevius McDaniel. McDaniel returned it to the 10-yard line, Stovall scored on a 1-yard run two plays later, and the Vikings were off and running.

“He didn’t see me,” McDaniel said. “It’s a joy. Making a play for the team.”

Provine went three-and-out on its next possession. Kelvin Gardner fumbled the punt snap at his own 15-yard line and recovered it, but the miscue set WC up with another short field. Stovall ran it in again, this time from 13 yards out, to make it 14-0.

Later in the first quarter, P.J. Mims intercepted a pass from Patrick Johnson — the second of three quarterbacks Provine used — and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.

Yet another interception on Provine’s next series, this one by David King, led to a longer scoring drive and a 4-yard TD run by Gray that made it 28-0 with 9:11 left in the second quarter.

“We wanted them to be better and they wanted to be better. We wanted to be peaking going into the playoffs. We weren’t pleased with how we looked and how we played the previous week,” Morgan said of his defense. “We felt like we weren’t getting everything we could out of them potential-wise. So we challenged them to be aggressive and they took it to heart and played good defensive football.”

Provine finished the game with 143 total yards. One of its two touchdowns came on defense, when All-America defensive end De’monte Russell returned a fumble 68 yards. It was one of four fumbles the Vikings lost in the game, with three of them coming in the second half.

That, though, is behind them now. Ahead is a long trip to Horn Lake next week and a fresh start in the playoffs.

“The playoffs are truly a new beginning. We’ve got a tough road in front of us, and that’s based off of what we did district-wise. But we have a chance just like everybody else,” Morgan said. “That’s the thing about the playoffs, if you just get in them. We’ve earned the right to get in it, there’s no doubt about it. We’re hoping the best is yet to come. Our goal is to win a state championship and that goal is still alive.”

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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