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2012 was a year of ‘almosts’

NATCHEZ — As the New England Patriots fell to the New York Giants 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI, Stevan Ridley could only watch from the sidelines in frustration.

Not just the frustration of seeing his team lose the game last February, but also the frustration that he wasn’t able to get into the action.

“Almost” would seem to describe several of 2012’s biggest Miss-Lou sports stories, and Ridley’s near opportunity to play in a Super Bowl — and the Patriots’ narrow loss — were chief among them.

At 12-4 with a first-round playoff bye, the Patriots seem poised to make another Super Bowl run this month. Ridley said the team isn’t dwelling on the past, but it does serve as some motivation.

“Coming from last year, no one’s really forgotten, but we don’t want to say too much about it,” Ridley said. “This year we just want to take the same approach and get to that game. If we’re lucky enough to get there, we’d like to finish (this time).”

Despite not playing in the game last season, Ridley said he enjoyed the experience of getting to go to a Super Bowl. With him getting more carries this season — he finished the regular season with 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns on 290 carries — Ridley is a virtual shoe-in to play in the Super Bowl, barring injury, should the Patriots make it. His 12 touchdowns moved him into a fifth-place tie for most rushing touchdowns in a single season in Patriots history, according to the team’s Facebook page.

But Ridley insisted he’s not looking too far ahead.

“This year I’m having a heavier role, and I just have to go out and do the best I can,” Ridley said. “There are games we have to win before (the Super Bowl). For me, I just have to continue to play ball. God has put me in a special situation to get out here and experience some of the best times any football player would like to experience.”

Cathedral girls softball

Getting to play in the MHSAA Class 1A state title game in May was a first for the Cathedral High School softball team. Despite the disappointment of being eliminated by Smithville High School, Lady Green Wave head coach Gary Blackwell said making it to state was a very good experience for him and the team.

“We won South State, which is something we haven’t done (before), and getting to state was something extra,” Blackwell said. “A lot of those girls had been playing since seventh and eighth grade, and to make it to state was just a really thrilling year for them.”

Making it all the way to a state title game has also had the added effect of generating interest in the Lady Green Wave’s program.

“We had a meeting three weeks ago and had 24 girls sign up,” Blackwell said. “We have a lot of good, young athletes coming up, so we’re looking to have a really good year. We’ll have to make a lot of adjustments, but we know we’re capable of getting to (state again).”

WCCA football

After a district title last season, the Wilkinson County Christian Academy football team set its goals higher — and almost reached the pinnacle.

The Rams made it to the MAIS Class A state title game in late November, only to fall to Tri-County Academy 13-10 in overtime. WCCA head coach David Wright said losing the game was tough, but laying a foundation in his first year of being the head coach was the most important thing.

“Instilling hard work and discipline through the program, that’s how we look back at it,” Wright said. “It would have been nice to win it all in your first year, but looking back we can say we sure did start the foundation of teaching kids how to win on and off the field.”

Now that the program is on the upswing, Wright said he can’t afford to get complacent in 2013.

“With having high expectations, you have to work harder in the offseason and in the weight room, and we have to come up with new schemes, because we’ll have a target on our backs,” Wright said.

Wright said he’s looking forward to a 2013 schedule that includes Trinity Episcopal and, he hopes, Adams County Christian School.