Grenada shuts down Warren Central’s offense, season, in Class 6A playoffs
Published 11:22 pm Friday, November 17, 2023
Even as the game turned against them, it always felt like Warren Central was one big play away from getting back in it.
It never came.
Not a big play. Not a touchdown. Barely any first downs or even yards.
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Grenada snuffed out everything the Vikings tried, and eventually did the same to their season. The Chargers forced five turnovers, held Warren Central to 58 total yards, and won 24-7 in the second round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs on Friday.
“It’s definitely not fun seeing your teammates cry like this and losing the way you did,” Warren Central senior center Beau Davis said. “It feels like you can’t get anything going, especially on offense. You go out there and get a first down and next thing you know you’re losing yards. It was like everything we tried to do, we took one step forward and two steps back.”
Grenada (10-3) will play South Panola (11-1) in the Class 6A semifinals on Nov. 24 in Batesville. It’s the first trip to the semifinals for Grenada since 2002. South Panola is there for the first time since 2014.
South Panola beat Neshoba Central 33-13 in its second-round game Friday.
The South Panola-Grenada winner will face West Jones or Picayune in the Class 6A championship game Dec. 1 in Oxford.
Warren Central (9-3) won the Region 2-6A championship, its first since 2004, and reached the second round of the playoffs for the fourth year in a row and seventh time in nine years. It has lost each time, and has not been to the semifinal round since 1994.
“You can’t let this game define you. I think we’re one of the best teams Warren Central has seen in a while. The stuff we’ve done this season is absolutely amazing,” Davis said. “While this game does suck, I do think we have one of the best teams Warren Central has ever seen and that’s something to be proud of.”
While this was a good, even great, Warren Central team, it was a horrific night at Viking Stadium.
The Vikings did not run a play on Grenada’s side of the field until their final possession, when less than two minutes remained in the game. They had as many turnovers (5) as first downs. Their only touchdown came on Zack Evans’ 66-yard punt return with 56 seconds left in the first quarter.
“(Grenada) did a good job. They were playing a shell around us on the perimeter and our passing game and they were able to stop the run with that box,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “We just couldn’t get our run game established, and they were sitting back waiting on it any time we tried to take shots.”
Despite the offense’s struggles, Warren Central’s defense kept it in the game until the final minutes.
Grenada scored on a 16-yard run by Macaleb Taylor on its opening series, and added a 27-yard field goal by Michael Cavanaugh and a 5-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Fair to Brayden Trusty in the second quarter to take a 17-7 lead into halftime.
On Grenada’s second touchdown drive, the Vikings initially forced a field goal that was missed but they were called for running into the kicker. It led to a fourth-and-2 that Grenada converted when the Vikings jumped offside.
“We didn’t start the game like we wanted to,” Morgan said. “They drove the ball down the field and scored, and turnovers certainly didn’t help. Right before half when we hit the kicker and jumped offside, that stuff didn’t help. Grenada was the better team tonight, but those things surely didn’t help.”
The Chargers finished with a modest 239 yards of offense — Taylor ran for 141 on a whopping 36 carries — and used its dominating defense to control the game.
Three of Warren Central’s turnovers came on either the first or second play of a drive. A turnover on downs at their own 20-yard line, when the Vikings were in desperation mode in the fourth quarter, was essentially a sixth turnover inside their own territory. It led to a game-sealing 14-yard touchdown run by Latavien Pritchard with 2:19 left.
“It’s very frustrating,” Morgan said. “It wasn’t our night. To win these things you’ve got to have a really good football team and you’ve got to have some breaks. We didn’t have them tonight.”