Saints success means star can step aside
NATCHEZ — Blowout games are usually signaled by a continuous clock and plenty of time for the backups.
That proved true Friday night in Trinity Episcopal Day School’s 42-6 rout of River Oaks School, especially when it came to the Saints’ stable of running backs.
After a big game from all-purpose athlete Tanner Cage, in which Cage tallied 192 yards on eight carries and two rushing touchdowns, Cage was pulled midway through the fourth quarter in favor of other players.
But Cage didn’t mind at all, saying he wanted to let some of the younger backs get plenty of game experience.
“It made me happy to see the backups get playing time,” Cage said. “I was putting it in their head that I wanted them to score every time they touch it, too. They’re the future.”
Trinity head coach Josh Loy said it can be a challenge at bigger schools deciding which backups get to go in during a blowout game, but with less than 20 players on Trinity’s roster, that issue isn’t as difficult for the Saints.
“Obviously, our job is a little bit easier than some other people,” Loy said. “These guys are working hard, and they deserve to play.”
Loy also said game experience is much better for player development than simply going against your teammates in practice.
“It’s huge,” Loy said. “That’s how you improve. You improve in practice, but (with games), you can put it on film and see what’s on film and correct it from there.
“In a game like this, they need to get some snaps and hopefully show us something that can get them snaps in a meaningful game,” Loy said.
The injury factor also plays a role, since coaches don’t want to risk getting their starters injured after the game is no longer in doubt.
“We’re shorthanded, so that definitely plays a part in it for sure,” Loy said.
Saints freshman running back Demarcus Fleming got plenty of snaps throughout the entire game, but his workload increased after Cage came out. He finished with 57 yards on 12 carries.
As the Saints’ big back, Fleming said it feels great being able to pound the ball in the trenches.
“I just have to go in there and give relentless effort and keep on pushing, because I know the guys on the team would do the same for me,” Fleming said.
But Fleming said his mindset didn’t change even after his carries increased.
“I just knew I had to do the same thing I was doing the first half — just keep on pushing,” Fleming said. “Keep on running.”
Fleming also said Cage having such a big night helped inspire Fleming.
“That’s the type of player I want to be one day,” Fleming said.
And Cage said he sees a lot of potential in Fleming.
“He’s a good kid,” Cage said. “He’ll do good.”
In addition to Fleming, backup Caleb Cross tallied 21 yards on three carries, and fullback Zach Young had 29 yards on four carries.