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Cathedral knows how to make plays

Cathedral High School had me fooled early on Friday night.

On their opening possession, the Green Wave seemed to have little trouble moving the ball, both on the ground and in the air, as they marched down the field against rival St. Aloysius.

Then quarterback Thomas Garrity threw a pick inside the red zone to the Flashes’ Connor Smith. I thought, “Well, that’s probably sort of annoying for Cathedral,” as I anticipated Smith getting tackled.

But then Smith ran to the outside and down the sideline for an 81-yard touchdown return. Suddenly, what I thought would initially be an annoyance turned into a momentum-shifting play that had the potential to knock the wind out of Cathedral’s sail.

You could tell early on the Green Wave were going to struggle to score, thanks largely in part to turnovers. Cathedral threw four picks and had a fumble inside the St. Al 15, all of which seemed to knock down anything they tried to build upon.

Cathedral did manage a big play, a 30-yard touchdown pass from Garrity to Jardarius Anderson early in the second quarter. Despite the turnover struggles, Garrity never let that make him gun-shy, which would prove critical for Cathedral later in the game.

Later in the quarter, St. Al was driving down the field, and Cathedral needed a big defensive stop to keep the Flashes from re-taking the lead. Josh Wilkerson provided that stop, and then some. It was obvious to anyone watching the play that Smith, the quarterback, was going to pass the ball to Max Loving, who ran straight up the middle and turned around in anticipation of the pass.

I don’t think Smith ever took his eyes off Loving, and I imagine Wilkerson would say the same thing about the play in question.

But just when it seemed like the Green Wave had taken control, St. Al did the unlikely. Pinned back inside their own 20, Smith scrambled around before hitting Brandon Teller — who ran 78 yards to tie it 14-14.

It was simply a mental lapse for the Cathedral defense, but it was a big one. Rushing said afterward he wasn’t pleased with how his team played, and for good reason. Give St. Al credit for hanging tough and taking advantage of Cathedral’s gifts, but except for the Green Wave’s mistakes, the game would never have been in question.

If you criticize Cathedral for their mistakes, though, you have to give the Green Wave credit for making the plays at the end when it mattered most. Watching Garrity scramble for 21 yards before hitting Anderson and Will Sandel to set up Nic Webb’s game-winning field goal was impressive, especially considering their offensive struggles.

The Green Wave players have expressed goals of winning district and going deep into the playoffs. Rushing said his team wasn’t ready to play. That may have been the case, but any team on a championship run is going to have games where they’re not 100 percent “ready to play.” The championship teams are the ones that find a way to win despite that.

Rushing will have a lot to work on this week with his team. But apparently, one thing he won’t have to work on is the intangibles needed to make big plays in key situations. Whatever frustration he felt Friday night, he at least has that to feel good about.