Playmakers 2023: Warren Central’s Zack Evans evolves as a two-way star
Published 2:34 pm Sunday, August 20, 2023
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in “Playmakers,” The Vicksburg Post’s annual football preview magazine. The 2023 edition is available with The Post’s Aug. 19-20 weekend print edition. You can also get a copy by visiting our office at 1106 Washington St., or by calling 601-636-4545.
At a school that’s been around as long and that has as much football tradition as Warren Central, it’s hard to be the first to do anything.
Zack Evans found a way.
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The senior will become the first player in school history to wear the number zero this year, following a recent rule change. Evans wore No. 6 the past two seasons.
“After sophomore year, Coach Josh (Morgan) was going to let me pick my number. I had been wanting to wear zero because I’d seen people in college wearing it. They didn’t allow it last year, so this year the first question I asked was he going to allow zero,” Evans said. “Nobody’s ever had it at the school, so I’m just trying to implement something else. Put a name to that. I’m trying to make it a big thing. Everybody’s got No. 1 and stuff like that. Nobody ever had zero.”
A uniform number is far from the only unique thing about Evans. He’s also a rare three-way starter who rarely leaves the field and excels in all phases of the game.
Evans plays defensive back and led the Vikings with four interceptions in 2022. He returns punts. And he’s also emerged as a big-play receiver who averaged a team-best 22.9 yards per catch last season.
“He’s a guy that has really developed and done a good job of working and turning himself into a really dynamic player. For him to be able to contribute for three years and play on both sides of the ball is very rare,” Warren Central head coach Josh Morgan said. “He’s accomplished some amazing feats. He brings a level of explosiveness. He can run, he’s really smart, and he’s got a good football I.Q. Those things have helped him get on the field.”
Evans’ expansive role on Warren Central’s depth chart has evolved over time. He only played defensive back as a sophomore in 2021, but showed enough skill and explosiveness to also play on offense as a junior. He finished with 19 receptions for 436 yards and three touchdowns in 2022, while also leading the team in interceptions.
Like all high schools, Warren Central has had plenty of two-way starters over the years. As a big Class 6A school, however, there are enough players on the roster that most specialize on either offense or defense. Morgan said Evans showed a unique talent that made him an exception.
“We don’t like to do that, for obvious reasons, but we couldn’t afford to keep him off the field,” Morgan said. “Just the productivity that he brings, we needed it out there, and he was able to give it to us.”
Evans acknowledged the rare opportunity — and challenge — he has in playing both ways at one of the highest levels of Mississippi high school football. Besides the grueling task of running on every play, he needs to know both the offensive and defensive playbooks and work with both groups in practice during the week.
“It was tough at the beginning because I had never done it before,” he said. “But as the year went on, the more reps you get in the game and I started doing extra conditioning. Running with more than one group to get in that mindset and body frame. It got easier as the season went on.”
Evans added that he embraced playing both ways both to help the team and because it was a chance to make his mark.
“Sophomore year I just played defense, so when I got a chance to go both ways I knew people don’t really play both ways at Warren Central so I was trying to make stuff happen any time I could,” Evans said.
Heading into his senior year, Evans is not done showing the world what he can do.
Warren Central’s offense had plenty of playmakers last season — seven players scored touchdowns of 30 yards or more — and Evans’ primary role was as a speedy deep threat. Almost all of those players graduated, however, so Evans will have a much bigger role in the offense this season.
He’s worked hard on route running and catching the ball, which will allow coaches to move him around the formation more.
“We’re opening up the route tree more because I can do more, instead of just being outside,” Evans said. “We’ve got some young guys that played a little bit last year and made a name for themselves that should do real good this year.”
Evans might even get some chances to run the football. Trey Hall, the 2022 Vicksburg Post Offensive Player of the Year, was often used in wildcat packages as well as a runner and receiver. Morgan said snapping the ball to Evans is just another way to get it in the hands of one of the team’s best playmakers.
“We’re trying to get him the football. He’ll take a little bit of that load we were doing with Trey. He’ll get a little piece of that, too,” Morgan said. “He’s gotten better every year and really worked hard at that. We’re expecting a better year out of him this year.”
2023 Warren Central schedule
All games at 7:30 p.m. unless noted
Aug. 25 — r-vs. Clinton, 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 1 — at Pearl
Sept. 8 — Germantown
Sept. 15 — Brandon
Sept. 22 — at Madison Central
Sept. 29 — Open date
Oct. 6 — *Ridgeland
Oct. 13 — *Vicksburg
Oct. 20 — *at Neshoba Central
Oct. 27 — *at Callaway
Nov. 3 — *Columbus
r-Red Carpet Bowl, at Vicksburg High; tickets available through GoFan.co
*MHSAA Region 2-6A games