Trinity Episcopal Day School quarterback Garrett Vinson, center, hands off to running back/linebacker Caleb Cross, right, as they run through plays during practice Wednesday afternoon. Cross has played an important role on Trinity’s defense so far this fall. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

Caleb Cross providing leadership for improving Trinity defense

Published 12:01am Thursday, October 18, 2012

NATCHEZ — The Trinity Episcopal football team gave up 84 points in the opening two games of the season — both losses.

But over the course of the last six games, the Saints have tightened up on the defensive side of the ball and allowed just 73 points, which led to a 5-1 record over that span.

“During the first couple of weeks, we didn’t have our heads in the game,” junior linebacker Caleb Cross said. “We had a new coach, and we weren’t focused, but we came together as a team and have played better.”

Cross provides leadership for the defense both vocally and with his style of play.

“I get everybody riled up to play, and try to make as many tackles as I can,” he said. “I like to hit people.”

Last week the Saints were without starting quarterback and defensive back Garrett Vinson, and the team fell 20-14 to Oak Forest Academy.

The Saints had trouble getting things going on offense, but head coach Josh Loy said the defense remained sharp.

“The defense played well along the last few weeks,” Loy said. “They gave us an opportunity to win last week. They got hit in the mouth early, but the defense really turned it around.”

Friday, the Saints defense will be tested again by a Columbia Academy offense that averages 24 points a game and is very physical on the line of scrimmage.

“They are huge up front,” Loy said. “They are the biggest team we’ve seen since Silliman Institute.”

Columbia’s offense looks almost identical to Trinity’s, Loy said, and the game will come down to which team executes.

Vinson remains day-to-day with his injury. Loy said the quarterback has practiced this week, and he will be a game-time decision Friday.

Cross said the Saints are using Vinson’s injury as motivation.

“We went in really pumped (last week), and put Garrett on our backs and played for him,” Cross said. “We played good on defense, but we mostly depend on him on offense. We just have to make sure he doesn’t get hit (this week) and give the offense the ball back as much as possible.”

Trinity steps back into MAIS District 5-AA play Friday, and a win puts the team in good position in the district.

“It’s huge, especially after last week when we had our win streak snapped,” Loy said. “This would clinch a playoff spot.”

Friday night will also be the final regular-season home game for the Saints’ seniors, and Cross said the underclassmen know how important it is to play well for their older teammates.

“We want to win for them,” he said. “Most of my closest friends on the team are seniors, and we want to play hard for them. We want to get one last win in what might be their last home game.”

Trinity (5-3, 1-0) will host Columbia (5-4, 0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.