MHSAA: Cathedral offense hits road for Dexter; Natchez hosts Vicksburg

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; So the secret’s out. Everyone knows this year’s Cathedral squad won’t line up and run right at you like teams in the past.

After the Green Wave put up 275 yards passing in a 35-7 rout of Madison St. Joseph Friday, you can imagine opposing coaches in Region 4-1A got on the horn and exchanged as many details as possible about what’s different with Natchez Cathedral this year.

Action in the 10-team region begins Friday for the Green Wave when its visits Dexter. But after Friday’s offensive showing, the Wave may be ready.

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&uot;We’re pretty pleased with our offense,&uot; Cathedral head coach Ken Beesley Sr. said. &uot;If we can get our snaps down, and we get some of our blocking assignments confused. But you expect that early in the year. But we’ve worked on that this week and hopefully will have that down pat. We’re not having a problem as far as making our plays, but we want to get them down pat to where we don’t have to think and just do it.&uot;

Now granted the blocking assignments were only on a couple running plays against St. Joe, and the majority of the snaps to quarterback Turner Smith in the shotgun were on the money. While it’s always the little negatives that folks often remember, the centers start each practice working on shotgun snaps without looking back at the quarterback.

&uot;I’ve got a outstanding coaching staff,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;I get all the credit, I guess. But the coaching staff is doing a great job. They’re doing most of the work. Roy (Garcia) and I kind of float wherever they need us. We’ve got a good staff, and that’s one of the reasons we’re doing as well as we’re doing.&uot;

If there’s negatives to report from the team, it’s injuries. Lineman Chris Rasco had surgery on his knee after he tore an ACL during practice prior to the jamboree, and outside linebacker Zack Calhoun cracked an index finger and may not be back until either the West Lincoln game next week or the Mize game on Sept. 26.

Friday’s game against Dexter, meanwhile, serves as a big contest since it’s the start of region play and the first of nine games that count toward the standings. There’s talk the Bulldogs may be down this year after losing 18 seniors from last year &045; a group that played from 10th grade on up.

But Beesley said he doesn’t have concrete details on them yet, and it’s foolish to take anyone lightly in a race that could have nearly everyone in a mad dash for the No. 2 spot behind favorite Mize.

&uot;I know they don’t have the numbers they’ve had in the past,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;They usually have 30-35 kids, and they don’t have but about 18 or 19. We don’t know a whole lot about them. Being a region game and being Dexter, you can’t overlook them. But I don’t think they’ll be the Dexter we’ve played the last two or three years. If we play the first half like we did (Friday), I like our chances.&uot;

Vicksburg at Natchez

NATCHEZ &045; Natchez High head coach James Denson normally isn’t one to get caught up in how good an opponent is. The Bulldogs are still struggling, and he’s often concerned more with his team’s execution than that of the opponent.

But even Ray Charles flinches at the current stretch of schedule for the Bulldogs, who got handled last week by South Pike, host Vicksburg Friday and visit Warren Central next week before facing more ranked teams when Region 4-5A action begins Sept. 26.

&uot;It gets tougher and tougher as we go down the schedule,&uot; Denson said. &uot;We’ll have to do a better job of taking care of the fundamentals. It’s not going to be easier as we go down the stretch.&uot;

That 47-6 loss to South Pike was a nightmare for the Bulldogs, losers of 23 of 24 games dating back to the 2001 season. The Eagles scored in just about every fashion imaginable with a blocked punt returned for a score and an interception returned for a score.

The Eagles scored four touchdowns in the first quarter to take control of the game quickly.

&uot;I don’t know,&uot; Denson said. &uot;I have no earthly idea on that. All I know is we’re making a lot of simple mistakes. Right now we’re doing a poor job of doing business. That’s where we are. We’ve just got to stay the course and get better at what we’re trying to do.&uot;

Doing so against a Vicksburg team that’s ranked 19th in the Big 10 poll may be difficult to do, but stranger things have happened. The Gators come in after battling Brookhaven last week to a 55-47 win in triple overtime last week, and Brookhaven was a team that had little trouble with Natchez back in the spring scrimmage.

&uot;We watched them on film, and it seemed they had they were having their share of problems in relation to holding on to the football,&uot; Denson said. &uot;That’s what happened to them in their first game against Southaven. They’re having their problems, too, but good teams find ways to win and losers find ways to lose. That’s pretty much standard procedure. They’ve had solid ball clubs throughout the years, and our hands will be full to stay on the football field with them.&uot;

Jefferson County at Velma Jackson

FAYETTE &045; It’s the fruits of labor for the Tigers. After changing their off-season workout regime for the better by spending plenty more time in the weight room, they’ve had plenty of positives to show for it &045; shutout wins of Crystal Springs and Yazoo City to start the season.

Now it’s another test when they go on the road Friday to face Velma Jackson.

&uot;We’re just working hard day-in and day-out,&uot; JC head coach Jeffrey Harness said. &uot;That’s about it. (The defense) has been the biggest part of the success. The defensive line has been the biggest improvement. They’re winning the battle up front.&uot;

The Tigers have also made an adjustment on the offense by switching Christopher Carradine to quarterback instead of going with sophomore Trevor Malone. There’s still speedy Joshfer Nichols at receiver as a weapon, while Ernest Havard and Avery Hammett have piled up yardage running the ball.

That may be something similar to what Velma Jackson will do offensively Friday against the Tigers. The Falcons will base out of a wing-T formation with various formations while keeping it on the ground.

&uot;They’ve got three backs, and I think all three had 1,000 yards last season,&uot; Harness said. &uot;They’re a pretty good-sized team. They’re not a small team. We’ll have to execute on every play to beat them.&uot;

Jackson, La., at Wilkinson County

WOODVILLE &045; The Wildcats (2-0) enter their home opener after opening the season with two convincing wins on the road.

They started with a 20-0 blanking of South Delta in Week 1 and posted a 46-0 win over Pointe Coupee (La.) Central last week.

Loyd Star at Franklin County

MEADVILLE &045; The Bulldogs posted their first win of the season last week over Terry after opening the season with a loss to Lawrence County.

The contest is third of four non-region games for Franklin County before opening region Sept. 26 against North Pike.

Port Gibson at Tylertown

PORT GIBSON &045; The Blue Waves will try to get into win column after dropping their first game of the season last week to Heidelberg, 22-8.