Warren Central opens Class 6A playoffs against Saltillo

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, November 9, 2023

For the first time in 19 years, Warren Central is entering the postseason as a region champion. That isn’t changing the team’s mindset or approach.

The Vikings (8-2) are a No. 1 seed in the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs and will host Saltillo (4-7) in the first round Friday night. Warren Central has built more than a decade of success on taking the role of the underdog, and coach Josh Morgan said that will stay the same no matter where they’re placed in the bracket.

“That role may have flipped. We still have that mentality. I think that’s what this program is based off of, is a chip on our shoulder and playing with an edge and a certain kind of motivation,” Morgan said. “Just because we have the one by our name, our mentality won’t change. It’s about us, and playing our opponent, and being the best version of ourselves that we can be. We still have a lot to prove and a lot we want to prove.”

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Warren Central won the Region 2-6A championship, its first since 2004, and is heading into the playoffs with a six-game winning streak. When it has been at its best, Warren Central has gotten out to fast starts and will try to do the same against Saltillo.

In convincing region victories over Ridgeland, Neshoba Central and Columbus, the Vikings had a 69-6 scoring edge in the first half. In tighter games against Vicksburg and Callaway, both of which were decided in the final minute, the margin was 16-14.

“Any time you play, the start is really important, and controlling the game and momentum. When we’re at our best we have a good start and are dialed in and focused from the very beginning,” Morgan said. “Playoff football, points are usually at a premium and mistakes are magnified. We want a fast start and to be really good in all aspects coming out of the gate.”

Getting a jump on a struggling team like Saltillo would also be advantageous. The Tigers lost their last two regular-season games and allowed at least 31 points in five of their seven losses.

Morgan said the Tigers are opportunistic on defense, so limiting turnovers and not allowing them to hang around deep into the game takes on added importance. WC has committed 11 turnovers in its first 10 games, with eight of those being fumbles.

“They’re very aggressive defensively. The way that they play, it’s either feast or famine. They try to turn you over offensively and try to take away the run, really load the box and come from everywhere. We have to take care of the football, but also have our heads up and understand where they’re coming from,” Morgan said.

Of course, Warren Central has the same sort of identity. It has scored three touchdowns on defense and two on special teams this season — wide receiver Zack Evans had two punt return touchdowns in last week’s 41-6 rout of Columbus — and played three games that came down to the final minute of regulation or overtime.

The varied experiences of the season, and having to find different ways to win, Morgan said, are all beneficial things to call back on not only this week but throughout what he hopes is a deep playoff run.

The winner of Friday’s game faces either Vicksburg or Grenada next week.

“We’ve won in a lot of different forms and fashions. We’ve had different types of ballgames. The good thing about it is, we’re finding ways to win close games,” Morgan said. “We’ve won pretty, we’ve won ugly, we’ve won with all three phases of the game helping us win. We’re going to need that. The biggest thing now is putting it all together at the right time. The difference is, there’s no tomorrow if you lose.”

All games start at 7 p.m.
MHSAA Playoffs
Vicksburg at Grenada (Radio: 107.7 FM)
Saltillo at Warren Central (Radio: 105.5 FM)
MAIS Playoffs
Porter’s Chapel at DeSoto School (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Briarfield at Sharkey-Issaquena Academy

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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