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Cathedral coaches are excited about spring

NATCHEZ — Many coaches try to temper expectations as they prepare for an upcoming season.

Cathedral High School head football coach Ron Rushing, however, said this fall has the potential to be very good for Green Wave fans.

“I’m as excited as I’ve ever been,” Rushing said. “Overall, this has the makings of the best team I’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Cathedral High School linebacker Matthew Rymer does a few post-practice exercises, going up and down the hill next to the Green Wave’s football field, Monday afternoon. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Cathedral High School linebacker Matthew Rymer does a few post-practice exercises, going up and down the hill next to the Green Wave’s football field, Monday afternoon. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

With 53 signed up to play, Rushing took the field for the Green Wave’s first day of spring practice Monday with hopes of building a strong foundation that will carry over into the fall. Of those 53, 16 are seniors, and Rushing said he’s looking to build depth this spring behind those upperclassmen.

“We want to see how the younger guys progress,” Rushing said. “We want to be able to get them in somewhere and maybe rest an older guy. I already know what the older guys can do — I want to build depth.”

Fresh off a junior year that earned him All-State honors, Green Wave linebacker Matthew Rymer echoed his coach’s high expectations for this coming season.

“I think we can make it back to South State,” Rymer said, referring to the Green Wave’s run in 2011 that ended with a loss to Noxapater High School in the South State title game. “If we put our minds to it and work hard, we have a shot at it.”

Rymer said he’s glad to get back on the field again, and he admitted he was getting a bit impatient not being able to do contact drills.

“I’ve been waiting for a while, and I’m just glad (spring practice) is finally here,” Rymer said. “I just want to get better and make the All-Star game — that’s my goal.”

Rising senior offensive lineman Jake Smilo joined his teammate in enthusiasm for spring, but he also said fall — and the start of football season — can’t get here quickly enough.

“Football is really fun, and it’s just a good thing to get back out here and get a feel for it again, but it’s almost like a teaser, because you won’t be playing for a long time,” he said.

One area of business is finding a replacement for defensive coordinator Jeff Roberts, who took a coaching job elsewhere.

“We’re talking to a couple of guys, and we’re going to find someone soon,” Rushing said. “Jeff did a great job coming in his first year, and the kids respected him and played hard for him.”

Rymer said he’ll miss Roberts and respected the coach for his work with the defensive unit last fall.

“He’s one of those that will be hard to replace,” Rymer said. “He knew a lot about the game and had us set up nicely.”

Rushing said Roberts helped change the team’s mentality about defense, and said prior to his arrival, the Green Wave were more of an offensive-oriented team.

“I think it will balance out this year,” Rushing said.

Along those lines, Rushing said he hopes to get to where no starter has to play both offense and defense.

“They all want to play both, but at our level, most of the kids are going both ways, and they wear out a lot faster,” Rushing said. “We have a group of unselfish older kids that understand that.”

Rymer, who also lines up at fullback, said he doesn’t mind playing both offense and defense but sees the wisdom in staying rested while the offense is on the field.

“I do what I can to help the team,” Rymer said. “I do see where he’s coming from with it. By game two or three, I’m in good enough shape to go both ways, so it’s no big deal.”

Though he was hesitant to draw comparisons to the 2011 seniors, Rushing said he’s impressed with the potential in this year’s group of seniors.

“The big thing is, who’s going to step up as a leader and take control of the team?” Rushing said.

Smilo said it would be important for he and his fellow upperclassmen to establish a standard of leadership heading into the fall.

“Without leaders, you just have the coaches doing it, and it’s always better to have your teammates pick you up than just the coaches,” Smilo said. “It brings you closer together.”

Cathedral will play a spring game May 16 with an opponent yet to be determined.