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Wounded Saints struggle in defeat

Trinity Episcopal’s Tanner Cage is tackled by a swarm of Oak Forest Yellow Jackets Friday night during Trinity’s 20-14 homecoming loss. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Trinity Episcopal fought with one hand behind its back Friday night, and the numbers — or lack of them — showed it.

With starting quarterback Garrett Vinson sidelined with a separated shoulder, Trinity Episcopal managed 0 yards passing against Oak Forest Academy on homecoming.

And despite a strong effort by running back Tanner Cage, the one-dimensional Saints fell to the Yellow Jackets 20-14, dropping Trinity to 6-3 on the season.

“Without Garrett, our offense changed a lot this week, and we kind of got out of our comfort zone and had to do some things we weren’t used to doing,” Trinity head coach Josh Loy said.

But Loy was also quick to credit Oak Forest for capitalizing on Trinity’s short handedness.

“We got beat by a better team tonight,” Loy said of the Yellow Jackets, who finished with 264 yards rushing.

Oak Forest had little trouble moving the ball on the ground against the Saints. The Yellow Jackets started the opening drive of the game by getting the ball all the way to the Trinity red zone, but the Saints got a break when Jacob Sandrock recovered a fumble in the end zone with approximately 5:30 left in the first.

The Saints gave the ball right back, however, when they fumbled on the first snap and watched as Oak Forest’s Austin Lee recovered the ball on the Trinity 14.

A few plays later, Yellow Jackets running back Sam Bourgeois scored from 8 yards out with 4:28 left in the first. The two-point run attempt was no good, and Oak Forest led early 6-0.

Oak Forest scored again to go up 12-0 with 11:04 left in the second on a 2-yard run by Rhase Riggins. The two-point pass attempt failed.

Trinity finally got on the board on a four-play drive, with runs of 21 and 19 yards by Cage and a 5-yard run by Demarcus Fleming. Fleming scored from 16 yards out at the 9:49 mark, and the Saints cut the lead to 12-7.

Trinity managed just 15 plays and 60 yards of offense in the first half, and Loy said the early turnover was particularly crippling to the Saints’ offense.

Trinity took its only lead of the night when Fleming scored on a 10-yard run with 5:58 left in the third quarter, putting the Saints ahead 14-12. But Oak Forest took the lead for good when the quarterback hit a wide-open Lee from 34 yards out on fourth down. Riggins scored on the two-point conversion, and Oak Forest led 20-14.

Trinity was unable to muster any more offense in the fourth quarter as Oak Forest held on to win.

Riggins led the game in rushing with 140 yards on 29 carries. Cage tallied 123 yards on 20 rushes.

Cage also lined up at quarterback for most of Trinity’s snaps, a position he isn’t used to playing. He finished 0-for-3 in passing.

“It was tough,” Cage said of not having Vinson handing off the ball to him.

With the Saints’ six-game winning streak snapped, Cage said he tried to encourage his teammates after the loss.

“I told every one of my teammates after the game to keep their heads up, because look what we’ve been through,” Cage said.

Trinity returns to district play next Friday when it hosts Columbia Academy.

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