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Vaughan leads Green Wave on defense

BEN HILLYER | The Natchez Democrat — Dakota Vaughan enjoys his role as the last line of defense for the Cathedral School soccer team. The senior plays sweeper and is an on-the-field leader for the Green Wave

NATCHEZ — Cathedral School senior Dakota Vaughan relishes his role as the sweeper for the Green Wave soccer team.

He knows that he is the last defender opposing team’s see before they advance the ball toward goalkeeper Daniel Garrity, and for the most part, he enjoys that responsibility, he said.

“I am the very last line of defense right before the goalie,” Vaughan said. “I back up the other two defenders and make the calls. I’m the boss back there.

“It has its ups and downs. It’s good to be the boss sometimes. When you make the right call and get it right, you feel good about the call. But if you make the wrong call, it’s your fault.”

Cathedral head coach Dennis Hogue said Vaughan is the player that keeps the Green Wave together at all times.

“He’s kind of like the rock of the team,” Hogue said. “He’s our anchor. He’s just so solid of a player and so solid of a person and a teammate that I know he’s not going to waver. He’s there for you 100 percent, no matter what the situation.”

Vaughan has an ability to say a lot with very few words, and he uses that to his advantage as a leader on the team, Hogue said.

“He’s not the cheerleader,” he said. “He’s not the guy that gives the Knute Rockne speech. He’s that quiet player that comes to practice, is always the first one there, and he’s prepared. To me he leads by example, and I think a lot of our younger kids coming up look up to that.

“He knows how to quietly, in his own way, get (the players) back on track when we are not getting much done. But he does it in such a subtle way, that, if you didn’t know what he was doing, you wouldn’t recognize it. He has his own, gentle giant, way about him.”

The senior is used to being a leader for his unit. He was the top dog on the Green Wave’s offensive line this year on the football field.

“(Football) was different in a way, because Peyton Jenkins liked to be the vocal guy, but he took control of the whole team,” Vaughan said. “I was the leader for the linemen.”

But Vaughan’s most important attribute may be his ability to adapt to any role, and also his ability to adapt to various styles of play, he said. He generally likes to focus on defensive strategy, but at times the football player in him will come out if the team needs a physical presence.

“Sometimes the football instincts will come back in, and I’ll put a shoulder into somebody,” he said. “It depends on the team (we are playing). If everyone on their team has epic ball skills, we may have to resort to other means and get more physical. But we try and prevent that.”

Vaughan started playing soccer as a freshman, and he has always been a defender for the Green Wave. He does have a strong leg and takes a majority of the goal kicks, but his offensive skill still needs work, he said.

He does enjoy the offensive game, however, and loves to watch when forwards like Dale Matheney get the chance to put a move on an opposing defender.

“Dale Matheney has excellent ball skills,” he said. “It’s really fun (to watch), especially when they juke somebody and pull away for a breakaway. That’s awesome to watch.

“I don’t have those skills. (My strength) is strength and speed. That’s why coach put me at sweeper. I can run from one end to the other to defend.”

The Cathedral defense has had its ups and downs this season, but Vaughan said they are coming together late in the season.

“We’ve been pretty solid,” he said. “It’s one of the best groups I’ve been fortunate enough to play with, but we’ve let a few people through. Day by day we are getting closer together.”

Vaughan is relishing his last few experiences as a prep athlete, and he said he knows they are coming to an end.

“I know I will not be doing sports anymore,” he said. “But that will give me more for college stuff, and a good time to spend more time with my girlfriend and my family.”

The senior plans to attend the University of Southern Mississippi next fall as a member of the Honor’s College. The program will allow him to participate in classes with fewer students and more hands-on instruction. He said he is unsure of his major.

Until then, he hopes to continue preventing goals and lead the Green Wave into the playoffs. Cathedral will face ACCS at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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