Here is an inside look at the 2020 Warren Central Vikings football team.
Josh Morgan (11th season, 66-44 overall)
ATH Kentrick Thompson (pictured above; photo by Keith Warren)
LB Taylen Smith
DB Tevin Bell
6-6 (4-2 in 2-6A), lost to Oxford in first round of North State Playoffs
The old adage says the only two things you can count on in life are death and taxes. Well, you can go ahead and add Warren Central being competitive in football to that list.
The 2020 season will be no different. Vikings coach Josh Morgan returns half his starters on either side of the football from last season, when the “11 brothers” were one or two pieces away from making some serious noise in Region 2-6A.
The bottom line for this season will be getting better on offense. The Vikings ranked next-to-last among the eight teams in their region in scoring offense a year ago.
The biggest question mark headed into the offseason was who would replace quarterback Parker Kivett, who accounted for more than half of the Vikings’ total offensive yards a year ago. Morgan said he didn’t have to look far for his answer.
“We want to be more athletic at that position this year,” Morgan said. “That’s why we’ve asked running back Kentrick Thompson to transition to quarterback. It should make us pretty dynamic in the backfield.”
Thompson is coming off a solid junior season in which he converted his 145 carries into 573 yards and found the end zone five times. His only pass attempt was a 31-yard touchdown pass.
The talented senior should have plenty around him to make his transition to quarterback as seamless as possible. Warren Central returns four starters on the offensive line – Dontavius Bell, K.J. Miller, Colt Lee and Charles Holmes – and Morgan said he’s got three guys still competing for the fifth starter slot.
“We need to find seven guys we can rotate up front, with one or two swing guys that can plug in at any of those positions,” Morgan said. “But with those four as a base, I feel like our line could be a strength for our offense.”
Tailback Antonio Thomas will line up at running back alongside Thompson, creating a duo that should create a lot of problems for opposing defenses. Thomas gained more than five yards a carry last year on 52 rushing attempts and scored five touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 34 passes for 410 yards and two more scores.
Tight end Quentin Pollard is the top returning receiver, having caught 11 passes for 127 yards last year despite missing half the season due to injury.
In the kicking game, Josh Griffin returns after having made 12 of his 18 field goal attempts and 19 out of 20 extra points. He also averaged 38.6 yards on 42 punts.
The outlook on the defensive side of the ball is much brighter, despite all-everything senior middle linebacker Darius Smothers tearing his ACL during early summer workouts.
Outside linebacker/defensive end Taylen Smith has since stepped into that leadership role. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Smith isn’t a prototypical outside rusher, but he has a nose for the football and an engine that never stops running. He led the 2019 squad with 18 tackles for loss, finished with 50 total stops and recorded six sacks.
“He’s a defensive end in an outside linebackers’ body,” Morgan explained. “He likes to use his athleticism off the edge. He’s fast and explosive – a good ballplayer with big upside. We’ll move him around a little bit to create some favorable matchups for us.”
Up front, Gus Judge returns to anchor a defensive line after making 12 of his 48 tackles behind the line of scrimmage as a junior last season. Defensive ends Lawrence Madison and Andre Woodson appear to be prepared for bigger roles as well.
The secondary should be very stingy with returning senior starters Tevin Bell and Jaylin Thompson holding down the corner positions. Safety Jason Williams is also back after leading the team with three interceptions as a sophomore last year.
“The experience we have coming back on defense has me excited,” Morgan said. “Our front seven has a lot of snaps under its belt, and we have two defensive backs (Thompson and Bell) who are as good as any we’ve had since I’ve been here.”