Behind the Spotlight: James, Bates play big for Bulldogs
NATCHEZ — The Natchez High School offense stole the show Friday night in the Bulldogs’ win over Meridian High School.
The Bulldogs’ offense scored 54 points and saw little resistance from the Meridian defense.
But when Natchez’s offense ran into trouble in the second half, it was an opportunistic defense that saved the game.
Meridian trailed 40-34 in the fourth quarter and had just recovered the second fumble in as many possessions by Natchez.
Two plays later, Meridian ran a speed option to defensive back Amos James’ side, and James had an individual effort that changed the game.
“I went in as he was running at me, and I popped the ball out some way and just jumped on top,” James said.
James’ forced fumble and subsequent recovery was the defensive play of the game for the Bulldogs.
“I think (that play) was an instrumental play of the game,” head coach Lance Reed said. “It got to the point where it could have gone either way. Momentum was swinging in their direction, and (James) gave a lot of effort knocking the ball out and recovering. It really swung the tides.”
James said he knew the team was in trouble, and the defense wanted to make a play.
“We knew we had to step up when we came out,” he said.
Reed said the defensive performances of James and linebacker Charles Bates were overshadowed some by the great offensive play, but they were instrumental in the Bulldogs’ big victory.
“Charles Bates made a bunch of plays and was around the ball a lot,” Reed said. “Those two guys played well.”
Reed said the coaching staff counted nine solo tackles, two assists and a forced fumble by Bates, but it was his presence that helped the defense more than his plays.
“He helped the defense from an emotional standpoint and provided senior leadership,” Reed said. “
Bates said he would always remember the fumble he caused in the first half that set up the Bulldogs second touchdown.
“I blew up the guard and hit the running back and made him fumble,” he said.
Bates said his role as a leader would not allow him to get too excited about Friday’s win, however.
“We have to improve on it,” he said. “We need to keep focused and keep winning and playing our game.”
Trinity Episcopal Day School’s Tanner Cage and Demarcus Fleming combined for 421 yards rushing for the Saints in their 47-27 victory over Adams County Christian School.
Trinity head coach Josh Loy said Cage and Fleming would not have been able to get their names called so much without the efforts of Carter Smith, Sky Logan, Conner Pressgrove, Jared Hedrick, Michael Iles and Cole Radzewicz, however.
“Our entire offensive line paved the way for (nearly) 500 yards rushing,” Loy said.
Loy said linebacker Caleb Cross also had an excellent game for the Saints.
“He made a couple of really good open field tackles,” Loy said. “If he doesn’t make those it’s going to be a big play. We needed him to make a play, and he did.”
Loy said Cross has been key for the Saints’ defense this season.
“Caleb flies around to the football and plays sideline to sideline,” Loy said. “He’s starting to make a lot of plays for us. He’s definitely not scared to throw his head in there.”