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Matheney provides consistency for Cathedral special teams

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Cathedral School senior kicker Dale Matheney kicks during practice while Andrew Beesley, left, holds Tuesday afternoon. Matheney, in his first year as kicker, played soccer for six years before joining the football team.

NATCHEZ — When Dale Matheney steps up to kick, football is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one.

Coming from a soccer background, the senior kicker for Cathedral High School said it’s not what he’s used to.

“You don’t think as much in soccer; it’s more a reaction type thing,” Matheney said. “In football, you have time to think, which gives you more of an opportunity to mess up. You have to be more clutch in football.”

But Matheney doesn’t mess up often, Green Wave head coach Ron Rushing said. On extra points, he’s 22 for 25 so far this season.

“He hasn’t missed many,” Rushing said. “In the years I’ve been here, he’s been the most consistent we’ve had. That’s big when you have someone who’s that consistent.”

Rushing also said he feels good trying for a field goal inside the 25-yard line, though the Green Wave haven’t had many opportunities to go for one.

Matheney had never played football prior to this season, and Rushing said he came out toward the end of last season to work with the team. Matheney went through spring training and summer workouts to get himself adjusted to football.

“If he had played for us longer, he’d be at a position,” Rushing said.

Matheney said former Cathedral head coach and Ole Miss kicker Cloyce Hinton recommended Matheney try kicking for the football team. Matheney said he also attended a kicking camp over the summer to learn more about the technique. He got some good pointers from at least one fellow camper.

“I roomed with a guy that was committed to Tennessee who could nail 50-yard field goals,” Matheney said.

One of the main things the camp taught him was visualizing what you’re planning to do, Matheney said.

“I’ve always thought that if you visualize and believe, you’ll have success,” he said. “Before I kick, I try to clear my mind and go over my steps, then take a deep breath and go to my happy place.”

At the same time, Matheney said he tries not to overthink kicking too much.

“The less you focus, the better you are,” Matheney said. “It’s more of a routine that you pick up. When you think too much, that’s when you mess up.”

Matheney is not used to doing much more than kicking the football, but last week against Hinds County AHS, he made a big play on a kickoff recovering a fumble that eventually led to Cathedral’s game-winning scoring drive.

“That was pretty amazing,” Matheney said. “I’m told to sit back (on kickoffs) and wait to see if they break through the first few guys.

“When I realized they hit the guy twice and he lost the ball, I figured I’d run up and see what I could do. I realized the ball was at my feet when I got there.”

As a placekicker, Matheney gave credit to his holder, Andrew Beesley, and his snapper, Dakota Vaughan.

“A lot of my success is because of them,” Matheney said. “It makes a big difference.”

Matheney said he plans to play soccer again when football is over. From talking to former two-sport kickers, Matheney said he doesn’t think football will help much with soccer.

“They’ve told me it messes their shot up,” Matheney said. “I’m sure it could help with upper body conditioning, but not much else.”

Cathedral will head to Hartfield Academy for its final regular-season game, and Rushing said the team’s 1-8 record is not indicative of the team’s ability.

“They move the ball up and down the field, they just have trouble putting it in,” Rushing said. “They’re well-coached and young. I think they only have five seniors.”

But those seniors will be looking to end their careers on a high note, Rushing said.

“They’re probably taking it as their playoff game,” Rushing said. “They can kind of loosen up and run trick plays and things.”

Rushing also said his team has had a bit of a letdown in practice this week after two weeks of good practices.

“We just have to focus on ourselves and try to cut the mental mistakes,” Rushing said. “If we do that, I think we’ll be fine.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday at Hartfield Academy.