All-star games up next for Warren Central players following playoff exit

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 1, 2019

Warren Central’s soccer season ended this week with a pair of playoff losses to Tupelo, but the season isn’t over just yet for some of its players.

Three players were selected to play in the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star Game Feb. 16 at Brandon High School, and three others were picked for the Central Mississippi Soccer Coaches All-Star Game on Feb. 12.

The selections, Warren Central coach Greg Head said, show that the Vikings and Lady Vikes are starting to get recognition as one of the better and more consistent teams in Mississippi.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“Looking at the list of players that made the team for the (Central Mississippi) game, Madison Central has two, Northwest Rankin has two and we have two. It shows people are looking at us as a contender,” Head said.

The Central Mississippi Soccer Coaches All-Star Game will be held at East Central Community College, and will be played for the first time. It is as much scouting camp as all-star game. Organized by several of the state’s junior college coaches, it includes not just seniors but players in grades 9-12.

Warren Central’s contingent is senior goal keeper Layken Stockstill and junior forward Madelyn Polk in the girls’ game, and senior defender Zane Flaharty in the boys’ contest.
Stockstill was a three-year starter in goal for the Lady Vikes, and Polk led the team in scoring with 11 goals after transferring from St. Aloysius. Flaharty was a three-year starter on defense.

“It’s a way for some of these coaches to see a bunch of players at one time,” Head said. “They’re doing it so they can scout kids out. It also gives more kids a chance to play all-stars, like Layken. She signed with a four-year school (North Georgia) but got passed over for the other game.”

The Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star Game is the traditional state all-star game for seniors, and will be played Feb. 16 at noon at Brandon High School. Representing Warren Central are midfielder Laney Smith for the girls, and midfielder Hank Holdiness and goal keeper Chase Graham for the boys.

Smith had eight goals and three assists this season, her third as a starter, and has signed with Holmes Community College. Holdiness led the Vikings with 14 goals and seven assists, while Graham had three shutouts and averaged six saves per game.

“We’ll be going to a lot of all-star games in the next few weeks,” Head joked.

Unfortunately, the all-star games are all the Warren Central teams have left to look forward to this season. The Lady Vikes lost 1-0 to Tupelo on Monday in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. The boys were also eliminated by Tupelo, 7-0, two days later.

The losses led to two very different reactions. For the girls, it was a positive step to hang with one of the state’s traditional powers. Only four seniors are graduating, and Polk is among 11 juniors Head hopes can take the momentum from a strong closing stretch of the season into next fall.

“It didn’t end the way we wanted it to. But for the girls, it was a great ending. We only won one of the last five, but we played the Nos. 2, 4 and 5 teams in the state tough. We were right there at the end. We were progressing through the year, and that’s what I wanted to see,” Head said. “We’ve got a good group of juniors coming back. We’ve got good leaders, and I hope they learned a lesson from this that hard work pays off.”

The boys, on the other hand, had high hopes after nearly reaching the Class 6A semifinals in 2017-18 that were never quite fulfilled. They finished 10-6-3 — the fifth year in a row the program has won at least 10 games — but slipped backward from last year’s 18-4-2 mark.
The 7-0 loss to Tupelo that got out of hand early was the final checkpoint of a lackluster season by the program’s increasingly high standards.

“For the guys, it was disappointing. You can’t take anything away from Tupelo. They have one of the best teams I’ve ever seen in all my years of coaching. But we got a little complacent at the end of the year,” Head said.

Like with the girls’ team, Head will have to replace some key players. Seven seniors are graduating. There are also a number of young players rising up to fill those spots that he hopes will usher in another strong wave.

“We’re losing seven seniors, but we had five or six ninth- and 10th-graders starting for us this year. We just have to fill all of our defensive positions,” Head said. “Both (boys and girls teams) ought to be good. It’s just the same thing as always, where we don’t have a lot of depth.”

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.

email author More by Ernest