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Football ends with disappointment, hope for the future

Since I took over as sports editor this past spring, one thing I hoped to do was cover my first high school state championship game in the fall.

I knew both Trinity Episcopal and Cathedral High School had a shot at that game, and it honestly didn’t matter to me which team made it — though I would have preferred both, since it would put our community in such a positive light.

But my hope did not come to pass, as both Trinity and Cathedral were eliminated in the state semifinals. And both of the teams the Green Wave and Saints played were, in the words of Cathedral head coach Ron Rushing and Trinity head coach David King, the better team.

Still, neither the Green Wave nor the Saints have anything to be ashamed of. For Cathedral, the trip to the South State title game against Noxapater High School was the furthest the Green Wave have gotten in the postseason in quite some time. Last season, Cathedral was eliminated in the second round of the Class 1A playoffs, and Rushing said one of the team’s goals was to get past that second-round mark. Mission accomplished.

Trinity has had quite a run the past three years, winning two state championships and getting to the semifinals. In that span, the Saints are 37-6, while going a perfect 15-0 in 2010 with a team that would easily challenge as the top MAIS team that particular season.

Trinity loses a strong core group of seniors again, including all-purpose athlete Tip McKenzie and quarterback Scott Turner. However, King’s teams are always known for their toughness in the trenches. If that continues next season, Trinity will have a shot to do some good things.

Adams County Christian School finished the season with just two wins, but there was certainly some improvement seen by the Rebels this season. And ACCS has an athlete in Lester Wells that has as much upside as anyone else in the area — and not just in football. It’s going to come down to two things for the Rebels going forward: depth and winning the battle in the trenches. As good as Wells is going to be, if ACCS is to have a shot against Brookhaven Academy and Trinity for the district title in the coming years, their chances will rise and fall on the play of the offensive and defensive lines.

After making the playoffs the past three seasons, Natchez High School finished 6-5 and missed the postseason in what was a tough region for the Bulldogs. NHS was still able to get a lot of valuable experience going into next season, and if the Bulldogs can figure out how to get their passing game going again, they should be able to get back to playing in November. The Bulldogs found out the hard way just how tough it is to replace an athlete like former quarterback Javon Washington, but the next NHS quarterback doesn’t need to be Washington. He just needs to be someone that can give the Bulldogs a presence through the air and can take advantage of the athleticism NHS features year in and year out.

If there’s one area coach I was especially impressed with this season, it was first-year Ferriday coach Richard Oliver. Oliver took over a team that won the district title a year ago, but many of those players graduated, and Oliver said during the season there were a lot of players playing football on his team for the first time. To make matters worse, a number of Ferriday starters were injured, forcing said players to be baptized by fire. All of this, and his team still managed to make the postseason, a testament to Oliver and his staff, and also his players for buying into the process. That experience should pay dividends down the road for the Trojans.

Finally, we have Vidalia, which was unable to win a game this year. It’s a far cry from how things were in the hayday of Dee Faircloth’s tenure, but the Vikings do have help coming. The Vidalia Junior High School football team won the Tri-Parish League Championship with a team mostly comprised of eighth graders. Those players will be freshman at Vidalia next fall, and the Vikings junior varsity squad also had a successful season, according to head coach Gary Parnham Jr. As those players experience, Viking fans should expect to see improvement in the coming years.

With football over, my favorite sport to cover, basketball, is now in full swing. I’m looking forward to the coming months of fast-pace action.

MICHAEL KEREKES is the sports editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or at michael.kerekes@natchezdemocrat.com.

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