Brandon ends Warren Central’s season in Class 6A playoffs
Published 12:32 am Saturday, November 19, 2022
BRANDON — Warren Central did a lot of the things it needed to do in order to knock off Brandon on Friday night.
Then it did a few of the things it did not need to do and let its opportunity slip away.
Junior running back Nate Blount rushed for more than 200 yards in the second half, and finished with 290 and five touchdowns, as Brandon beat Warren Central 36-28 in the second round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs.
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Warren Central committed three turnovers after only having seven all season, and couldn’t come all the way back after falling behind by two scores in the third quarter.
“I thought we had a good game plan coming in, and we definitely had some shots. The ultimate thing was us turning the ball over, which was uncharacteristic of us,” Warren Central head coach Josh Morgan said.
Brandon (11-1) advanced to the South State championship game for the second year in a row, and will play Ocean Springs next week.
Warren Central (10-2) had its first 10-win season since 2016 end much sooner than it wanted, with another loss to Brandon. The Bulldogs gave Warren Central both of its losses this season, and knocked it out of the playoffs in 2021 as well.
“I’m proud of them, from where we started and where we came, and the improvements that we made. The game of football is like the game of life. Close ain’t no cigar. But I’m so very proud of them. What a great year we’ve had. I’m proud to be their coach,” Morgan said. “It’s always good to love your guys, and them being enjoyable to be around, and also be able to win football games. And they were that kind of a team.”
Friday’s playoff game was far different from Brandon’s 21-3 win over the Vikings in the regular season. Both teams traded shots and big plays all night long, until Brandon took control with a huge third quarter.
Warren Central led 21-14 at halftime and got the ball to start the second half. Star running back Trey Hall fumbled on the first play, however, and Brandon recovered. Five plays later Blount scored on a 7-yard run.
The PAT was no good, leaving the score 21-20, but the momentum swung in Brandon’s favor. Warren Central only picked up one first down and punted on its next two possessions, and the Bulldogs responded with touchdowns both times. Blount scored on runs of 48 and 4 yards to put the Bulldogs ahead 33-21 with 3:08 to go in the quarter.
“We always talk about the first five minutes of the half. That was a good opportunity there and we missed it,” Morgan said. “That was not the way we wanted to start. You can’t do that. They don’t need any help.”
Warren Central finally got on its feet on the next drive. Zack Evans turned a short pass from quarterback Jack Wright into a 56-yard touchdown that cut it to 33-28.
Wright finished 20-of-35 passing for 249 yards and three touchdowns. Evans caught two passes, both touchdowns, for 92 yards.
Maddox Lynch also had eight receptions for 86 yards, and Hall totaled 92 rushing yards.
None of them piled up the stats like Blount, though. The 5-foot-10, 230-pound bowling ball was nearly unstoppable, averaging 9.1 yards on his 32 carries. He had a 58-yard run in the fourth quarter that led to a field goal for Brandon’s final points.
“The kids did a great job executing our game plan tonight. He’s a focal point of that,” Brandon coach Sam Williams said. “We didn’t have him this time last year, Jarvis (Durr) had to step up, then Jarvis went down this year and the Nate Train’s been rolling.”
Warren Central got a defensive stop early in the fourth quarter, and held Brandon to a field goal with 2:25 remaining to give itself a chance to tie the game. It wasn’t able to, however. One drive ended on downs at the Brandon 26-yard line. On their final possession, the Vikings converted two fourth downs before running out of time.
On the final play of their season, Wright was flushed out of the pocket to his right and hit as he tried to throw a Hail Mary pass to the end zone. The ball floated out of his hand and landed 10 yards downfield, out of bounds, as time expired.