2024 All-County Soccer: Head and Lawrence led Warren Central to a breakthrough season

Published 3:55 am Saturday, March 16, 2024

For years, Warren Central’s soccer seasons followed a predictable and unfortunate pattern.

There would be a good regular season, a playoff berth, and then a quick exit once they ran up against one of Mississippi’s elite teams.

That all changed this season — times two.

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Warren Central’s girls and boys teams both shattered their glass ceilings by winning the MHSAA Region 2-6A championship and advancing to the Class 6A North State championship game. It was the first time since 2005 that the Lady Vikes won a playoff game, and the first time since 1993 that the boys’ team had been to the state semifinals.

For leading the charge, Warren Central girls’ coach Jeremy Lawrence and boys’ coach Greg Head are the 2024 Vicksburg Post soccer Co-Coaches of the Year.

“It’s awesome. It’s good to see the hard work pay off. It’s good to be appreciated when you earn it,” Lawrence said. “Obviously it’s great for the kids, but it’s great for the school and the program to see the fans getting excited about it. Hopefully it leaves a big ripple and we keep seeing the crowds come out,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence also thanked his assistant coaches, Dalton Culpepper and Katelyn Morson, for their work.

“To make history, I don’t think it’s set in yet. I can’t brag about myself, though, My other coaches helped me a lot,” Lawrence said.

Besides their breakthrough in the playoffs, what made Warren Central’s season so remarkable was where both teams came from.

Each had a rare down year in 2022-23. The Vikings lost their entire senior class — which equated to about half the starting lineup — for various reasons and finished 3-12. That ended a streak of eight consecutive 10-win seasons.

The Lady Vikes slumped to a 5-12 record after winning at least nine games in each of the previous five seasons.

The first step in the turnaround came during those bad seasons, when the MHSAA added a seventh classification during its bi-annual reclassification. Warren Central was placed in Class 6A, which moved it away from the perennial Jackson Metro powers like Madison Central, Clinton and Northwest Rankin that had frustrated it for so long.

Warren Central was placed in Region 2-6A alongside teams with the same general profile it has — slightly smaller student bodies and fewer club players to work with.

“I don’t want to blame it on redistricting, but that has a lot to do with it,” Lawrence said.

The second step for both programs was surviving the difficult 2022-23 season. Head said it left a bad taste in his players’ mouths that they were eager to rinse out.

“That’s our mentality. We’re here to win. We’ve had that since I’ve been here. We set that bar real high,” said Head, who has been Warren Central’s boys’ coach since 2006. “We always seem to come out ahead. That’s why last year was so hard. None of them were part of a losing season before that. We went through that year, they stood tall, and we worked hard.”

The two Warren Central teams’ paths were intertwined throughout their respective journeys. The Lady Vikes had an 8-4 record at the holiday break, and only lost twice after New Year’s. The Vikings were 9-4 at the break and did not lose until the Class 6A semifinals.

Each won their first-round playoff game at home and then beat Neshoba Central in the second round to cement the deepest postseason runs for both in a generation.

It created a unique and fun situation in which both teams were rooting for and pushing each other.

“We made history — together, too, which was awesome,” said Warren Central senior Gloria Hall, the 2024 Vicksburg Post girls’ Player of the Year.

All the while, Lawrence and Head pushed all the right buttons for their respective teams. Besides managing the tactical side well, their players offered praise for the way the coaches handled the personalities on the roster.

“(Lawrence) strived for us to be a family, and that helped so much,” Hall said. “On the field, off the field, it’s incredible how much that helps when your team is a family. He’s done a great job with that, and just a great job of being a coach.”

Tyler Godshaw, the Post’s boys’ Player of the Year, said Head’s long track record of success at Warren Central was impressive. Head is the Post’s Coach of the Year for the sixth time. He has a career record of 225-126-13 in 18 seasons, and has only had two losing seasons since 2008.

“I’ve been in the program for four years and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the same player I am without him. He has helped me grow to be a more versatile player, better rounded, and he’s taught me the game better than any of my other coaches,” said Godshaw, who signed with Southwest Mississippi Community College. “He just knows what he’s talking about, and he knows how to speak to you and figure out what makes you tick, and uses that to help you grow.”

As they turn their attention to the 2024-25 season, the fates of the Vikings and Lady Vikes once again seem intertwined. Each is only losing three seniors and have rosters stocked with underclassmen. Both teams had a half-dozen contributors who were sophomores or younger this season.

With so much talent ready to come into its own, and more on the way in younger classes, both coaches said this year’s success is not a crowning achievement but rather the beginning of a new era.

“This is Year 3 without a lot of changes and that has helped them develop. Now we have to have them see this is the new normal,” Lawrence said. “It’s a great feeling. It always sucks to lose seniors, but we’ve got such a good group of younger players that it feels like soccer is picking up in Vicksburg.”

Vicksburg Post soccer Coaches of the Year
2024 – Greg Head and Jeremy Lawrence, Warren Central
2023 – Samantha Bailey, Vicksburg
2022 – Jay Madison, St. Aloysius
2021 – Greg Head, Warren Central
2020 – Kristen Williams, Vicksburg
2019 – Scott Mathis, St. Aloysius
2018 – Scott Mathis, St. Aloysius
2017 – Greg Head, Warren Central
2016 – Scott Mathis, St. Aloysius
2015 – Karen Carroll, Vicksburg
2014 – Greg Head, Warren Central
2013 – Greg Head, Warren Central
2012 – Greg Head, Warren Central
2011 – Trey Banks, Warren Central
2010 – Keiko Booth, St. Aloysius
2009 – Kevin Manton, Vicksburg
2008 – Jason Bennett, Vicksburg
2007 – Jason Bennett, Vicksburg
2006 – Karen Carroll, St. Aloysius
2005 – Jason Bennett, Vicksburg
2004 – Kristin Gough, Warren Central
2003 – Kevin Manton, Vicksburg
2002 – Kevin Manton, Vicksburg
2001 – Shirley Agostinelli, St. Aloysius
2000 – Jay Harrison, Warren Central
1999 – Kevin Manton, Vicksburg; and Lucy Young, Warren Central

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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