Saints spark back in big playoff win

Published 12:46am Saturday, November 3, 2012

NATCHEZ — After a 1-2 skid to finish the regular season, Trinity Episcopal went back to what was working — big plays and a stifling defense.

And that combination proved too much for Silliman Institute as the Saints (8-4) tallied a 27-12 win in the opening round of the MAIS Class AA South State playoffs Friday.

Tanner Cage once again provided the big-play spark for the Saints, as he finished with 220 yards, including long runs of 66, 35, 48 and 41 yards.

Cage opened the game with a 66-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, but it was perhaps his second touchdown that proved the most exciting. Silliman had cut the lead to 7-6, and the Saints faced a fourth down from the Wildcats’ 12-yard line.

Quarterback Garrett Vinson tossed the ball to Cage, who acted like he was going to run a screen play. But Cage saw Peyton Young wide open in the end zone and completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the Saints a 14-6 lead with 2:05 left in the first.

“(Head) coach (Josh) Loy has been stressing (that play) these last couple of weeks,” Cage said of the trickeration play. “We’ve been running it in practice, and he always said we were going to need it, and we needed it tonight.”

Loy said the double pass play was meant for the red zone, and there was finally an opening Friday night.

“We actually had it in for the Brookhaven game last week, it just never presented itself,” Loy said. “It’s kind of a goal-line play inside the 10. I thought it would be there, the way they were coming up so hard on Tanner, and it worked out.”

After Cage’s opening touchdown run with 11:45 left in the first, Silliman responded by driving down the field and scoring on a 24-yard pass from quarterback Cobb Kelly to Caleb Jackson. The PAT attempt failed, and Silliman trailed 7-6 with 6:27 to go in the first.

Trinity failed to score on its next possession, giving Silliman the ball again with just more than four minutes left in the first.

But a fumble recovery by Sky Logan on the Silliman 28 helped set up the Saints’ double-pass touchdown play.

Neither team scored again until the second half, when Trinity extended its lead by two more touchdowns. Cage accounted for both of them, one on a 6-yard carry with 4:18 left in the third and another on a 41-yard run with 9:52 to go in the fourth.

Silliman added its final touchdown in the fourth when Kelly again connected with Jackson on a 30-yard touchdown pass with 0:17 left. The PAT attempt failed, making it 27-12 with 17 seconds left.

The win advances Trinity to the second round of the playoffs next Friday, and Cage said he’s excited his team was able to advance.

“Nobody expected us to even compete for a district championship or be in the playoffs,” Cage said. “Everyone thought we would be 0-11, and out.”

Loy was very complimentary of his team’s defense, which held Silliman to 265 total yards but only gave up two touchdowns.

“We’ve been playing kind of a bend-but-don’t-break defense all year,” Loy said.

“Coach (Kyle) Ketchings has done an outstanding job, and those guys are playing hard on that side of the ball. We give up yards but don’t give up a lot of points, and that’s what matters.”

Vinson was 5-for-11 in passing for 55 yards. Demarcus Fleming had 61 yards rushing on 14 attempts. The Saints tallied three interceptions, two by Jacob Sandrock and one by Cage.

Receiver Dre McCoy sustained an injury in the first half but later returned to action. Linebacker Quinton Logan tweaked his groin, Loy said, and the team will evaluate him over the weekend.