Deja vu for Vikings in postseason opener

Published 8:00 am Thursday, November 8, 2018

Warren Central is taking a long road trip for a playoff game. It’s facing an undefeated team that’s ranked No. 1 in the state. It’s an underdog that’s not supposed to win.

Yada, yada, yada.

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The Vikings have heard it all before, been there and done that, and they’re not listening to any of it.

When the Vikings (5-5) head north to play Horn Lake (11-0) in the first round of the Class 6A football playoffs on Friday night, it won’t be with the mindset of an underdog. It’ll be with the knowledge that they’re in the same situation as the past two years when they beat South Panola and Tupelo on the road, and the confidence that they can do it again.

“The good thing is, this senior group has experienced it two years in a row,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “The only real advantage they’ll have over us is the travel. Our challenge to our guys was to handle that businesslike approach and make it an advantage for us. Travel well, prepare well, and take that advantage from them because once we get there it’s going to be football. If we’ll do that, then it’s just Warren Central vs. Horn Lake at that point in time.”

Horn Lake has emerged as a surprise team in Class 6A this season. The Eagles finished 9-3 and reached the second round of the playoffs in 2017, but are far from a traditional power. This is only the program’s fourth playoff appearance ever, following back-to-back trips in 2002 and 2003.

Coincidentally, the only meeting between Horn Lake and Warren Central was in the 2003 playoffs. Horn Lake won 22-0.

This year’s Horn Lake team has allowed only 10.9 points per game. The defense is led by senior Nakobe Dean (90 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, three interceptions), who is Mississippi’s top-rated linebacker by

“It’s not one of your traditional powerhouses by name, but they’ve got a special group which the coaches have done a really good job with,” Morgan said. “They had a good run last year and I’m sure they feel like they have the talent to win a championship. So do we.”

While Horn Lake has had a breakthrough season, Warren Central has had a difficult one. It could easily have eight wins instead of five, but lost two games in the final minute and had another ruled a no contest when it was halted by severe weather in the third quarter.

The Vikings have, however, won three of their last four games to play their way into the postseason and finished 4-3 in the rugged Region 2-6A. Most importantly, they’re coming off a thoroughly dominant 34-13 victory over Provine last week that bolstered their confidence even more.

“I feel like we’ve gotten better week in and week out,” Morgan said. “We’ve won three out of the last four. I feel like we’re more mentally locked in than we have been all year and we’re trying to peak at the right time. We have a great deal of momentum, but we’re going to have to be dialed in.”

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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