Warren Central wants to break through in playoff match-up with Grenada
Published 12:00 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023
The second round of the playoffs has often felt like an ice-covered mountain for Warren Central.
The Vikings get there. They climb. They get near the top, then slip and slide back down and have to start all over again.
Each season brings fresh hopes that this time they’ll finally reach the summit, however, and the Vikings (9-2) are on the climb once again. They’ll host Grenada (9-3) on Friday night with an opportunity to reach the MHSAA Class 6A semifinals and turn what’s been a very good season into a truly great one.
“This is a big step. This is the next step. When you get into that second round, we’ve again put ourself in a good position,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “Hopefully we can continue to win and keep this thing going. We’ve had a wonderful year. I feel like our guys are really coming into their own and playing well.”
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Warren Central has won seven consecutive games, including last week’s 46-19 blowout of Saltillo in the first round of the playoffs. It’s the seventh time in nine seasons the Vikings have been this deep into the postseason, but the first time since 2017 that they’ve played at home.
In a match-up where travel is a factor, Morgan said it was not an insignificant advantage.
“It gives us that comfort of being home, where we don’t have to travel,” Morgan said. “Hopefully our fans will make it an advantage for us and make it a great environment for our kids. We’ve seen our crowds dictate games before.”
Warren Central and Grenada have not played in the regular or postseason since 2010, but do have some recent history. They played their spring game against each other at Delta State University in May, with Grenada taking a 17-16 victory.
Morgan said both teams have changed enough in the last six months and the course of a dozen games that it was hard to read too much into the result. He did, however, say that there was information to be gleaned from examining the game film.
“When you have questions of match-ups, you can find them and scheme from that standpoint to see how we match up with them physically. Things like that, I think it helps,” he said. “Both teams are so much different than when we saw each other in the spring. But there are some things there that if you’re willing to look for them you can find that help you make some decisions going into the game.”
One of the biggest decisions for Morgan and his coaching staff will be figuring out how to crack a stingy Grenada defense.
The Chargers have held six of their last seven opponents to a touchdown or less, and shut out two of them. They beat Vicksburg 37-8 in the first round last week while holding the Gators to less than 100 yards of offense through the first three quarters.
“They don’t stay blocked,” Morgan said. “They do a good job of getting off blocks. They do a good job of tackling. They swarm to the football, really make you work for everything. Everything that makes good defenses good.”
Warren Central has done its own good work on defense, allowing five opponents to six points or less. Even though Saltillo scored 19 points last week, all of them came after the Vikings raced out to a 46-0 lead in the first half. Eric Collins Jr. and Aden Greer each rushed for two touchdowns, and the Vikings had four scoring plays of 30 yards or more.
That victory followed a 41-6 rout of Columbus in the regular-season finale, and Morgan said he’s seen a change in demeanor in his players the past two weeks — much more businesslike and ready to deal with the task at hand.
It’s the same approach they’ll need to beat Grenada and finally unlock an achievement that has eluded the program for nearly 30 years. Warren Central’s last trip to the semifinals was in 1994, when it also won its last state championship.
“I don’t know if we could’ve played any better (against Saltillo). The thing that I liked was that it was all business. It wasn’t just one person. It wasn’t just one side of the ball. It was all three. We were hitting on all cylinders, so that was good to see our team’s approach and the seriousness of the situation,” Morgan said. “We rose to it. This is going to require that and then some. The bigger the game the more it’s going to require from us. But I love watching us prepare all week and shift gears. This is what we’ve all been doing this for. I liked seeing our guys’ minds in practice look different because these games are different.”
GRENADA AT WARREN CENTRAL
• MHSAA Class 6A playoffs, second round
• Friday, 7 p.m.
• Radio: 105.5 FM