Holmes Central, Madison Central are Red Carpet Bowl foes for 2019 and 2020

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2018

For the first time in its 57-year history, the Red Carpet Bowl is going to have a rematch.

Madison Central and Holmes County Central will be the opponents for Vicksburg High and Warren Central in the annual season-opening doubleheader for the next two years. However, in a unique arrangement, the two Warren County teams will face the same opponent in both 2019 and 2020.

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Vicksburg will play Madison Central in the first game of the 2019 Red Carpet Bowl on Aug. 23 at Warren Central, and then in the second game of the 2020 Red Carpet Bowl at VHS.

Warren Central, meanwhile, will play Holmes County Central in both years.

It’s the first time in Red Carpet Bowl history that teams have played each other in back-to-back years. The game typically signs contracts with opponents to face Vicksburg High one season and Warren Central the next.

Red Carpet Bowl committee member Kevin Ford said it was a way to freshen the lineup by including Class 5A and 6A schools closer to Vicksburg, as well as programs whose fans are more likely to travel to the game.

“We were looking to expand our options out of the central Jackson area,” Ford said. “The problem we run into when we play those schools is it eliminates the 6A schools in Warren Central’s district. But if Vicksburg plays them both years, they can play people that are in Warren Central’s district and historically have been left out of the mix. And vice versa for Warren Central. So we added to the pool of teams we can look at.”

Both Madison Central and Holmes County Central will lose a home game by playing in the Red Carpet Bowl, although both are offered a guaranteed payout from the committee similar to the ones college programs pay to opponents.

“(Madison Central) was very receptive to coming and being a part of it. The Red Carpet Bowl is still one of those unique items in the state of Mississippi,” Ford said. “Selling them on it is not a problem, per se. You have to convince them to give up the home game, and then you have to get in their schedule. You have to lock it in that day to get in their schedule.”

Although the scheduling arrangement is a first, Madison Central and Holmes County Central continue a long tradition of quality opponents in the Red Carpet Bowl.

Madison Central finished 10-4 this season and reached the Class 6A semifinals for the ninth time in 11 seasons. Holmes County Central went 11-2, won the Region 2-5A championship and reached the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.

“To be able to do that inside of that district, it’s something that hadn’t been able to be done before. So we should be able to get good teams and good teams that travel well so we can give out more scholarships, which is the key,” Ford said.

For Warren Central, facing Holmes County Central will mark the beginning of an extremely challenging and slightly revamped schedule from recent years.

The Vikings will play Pearl in Week 2, and then Vicksburg and Class 6A semifinalist Brandon before launching into the Region 2-6A schedule that includes Madison Central, Starkville, Clinton, South Panola and Germantown. Of the non-region opponents, only Vicksburg failed to reach at least the second round of the playoffs last season. Four of WC’s 11 regular-season opponents are also different than last season.

“There’s two trains of thought. One is, teams will play a rough schedule early and they’ll take some bumps and bruises but it makes them better in the end,” Warren Central offensive coordinator Rob Morgan said. “And on the flip side, if you’re not a mature team then you can go in the tank and not overcome it. It’ll be interesting, where we’re at now with a bunch of young boys we’re counting on playing next year, how that plays itself out.”

One downside to adding Brandon to the regular-season schedule is the likely loss of the Bulldogs as a spring game opponent. The teams have played each other the past several years in a regulation contest that has often had the feel of a playoff game. Morgan said that rare level of intensity for a meaningless scrimmage has helped both teams in the long run.

“We hate to lose that because it’s been beneficial for us. But it made sense for us since we played Pearl, so why not Brandon?” Morgan said. “Brandon has been really good for us. You know that they’re a good team and kind of the measuring stick, and for the last two or three games it’s turned into a playoff atmosphere where both teams are trying to win the game at the end.”

Vicksburg, meanwhile, is still assembling its schedule. After opening with Madison Central, the Gators will play at Warren Central in Week 3 and then face Louisiana’s Benton High School in Week 4. Head coach Tim Hughes is still looking for a Week 2 opponent.

Benton is a Class 4A school from the Shreveport area. It finished 7-5 this season and reached the second round of the playoffs before losing to eventual state champion Edna Karr.

It will be Vicksburg’s first game against an opponent from Louisiana since a four-year series with Richwood that ran from 2009-12.

“It’s where we need to be,” Hughes said of the Gators’ non-region schedule. You don’t want to lose sight so much that you keep them competitive. We’re going to have to see how much better we’re going to get. With Warren Central and Clinton in the mix last year it was a very competitive non-district schedule and it’s going to be the same this year.”

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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