Saints pound it on ground to top Rams, claim crown

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; There’s no doubt Wilkinson Christian can pound the ball away with the running game, but once Trinity Episcopal returned the favor, it hurt.

It really hurt.

The Saints have hurt the opposition in a number of ways offensively, but they kept it on the ground in the second half to keep the clock rolling, the Rams’ defense on the field and the chains moving. In what was a winner-take-all contest for the top spot in District 7-A, the Saints piled up nearly 500 yards total offense for a 33-14 win.

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The win gives the Saints the district title for the second straight year and a home game in the first round of the playoffs next week against Deer Creek. The Rams will play next week at Tallulah, a 45-28 winner over Briarfield.

&uot;We just had to step up,&uot; said senior back Walt Ketchings, who had 108 yards and a third-quarter score. &uot;We knew if we didn’t step up, this could be our last home game as seniors. We had to step up. The line did a great job. Anybody could have run through those holes.&uot;

The Saints held a 21-7 lead at halftime and were putting the clamps on the Rams’ rushing attack that’s been so successful this season. On the first drive the Rams came up empty when Dudley Guice Jr. came up with an interception, and that’s when Trinity kept it on the ground.

The Saints finished with 324 yards on the ground for the game, but the 193 in the second half may have been the difference. The Rams had success stopping Trinity’s running game at times in the first half, but the Saints didn’t have a run that was tackled behind the line of scrimmage in the second half.

The contributions came after running back Chase Brown went down with a knee injury.

&uot;We beat a physical, well-coached and talented football team tonight,&uot; Trinity head coach David King said. &uot;That’s what you’ve got to have to go into the playoffs. Dudley made a big play, and we told our kids we had to grind it out. I think when it’s all said and done our depth at the back position

&045; Chase and Gregory (Ketchings) were in there with Walt, Joey Wilson and Steven Ridley &045; that’s just a bunch of backs that can run the football. I think our depth at the backs was really big.&uot;

The biggest statement from that bevy of backs came after Guice made the pick to give the Saints the ball at their own 20 for their first drive of the second half. Ketchings popped a 27-yard run to get past midfield, and two more runs from him got the Saints to the 32.

Ridley then ran for 21 points on three plays to get to the 11, and Ketchings scored on the second play from 7 yards out for a touchdown with 4:21 left for a 27-7 Trinity lead.

&uot;That probably was the nail in the coffin,&uot; WCCA head coach Paul Hayles said. &uot;We didn’t execute on our pass play. We threw the ball in the air, and Guice made a nice play on it, but we’ll get better. I felt like we did not play very well, but Trinity Episcopal was a big reason for that with the way they played.&uot;

Another WCCA drive stalled out and resulted in a punt just under two minutes left in the third, and the Saints went back to pounding away to put the game out of reach. Ridley broke a 21-yard run on the first play to get past midfield, and 10 plays later Wilson took the handoff and ran five yards for a touchdown with 9:00 left for a 33-7 lead.

&uot;That (first drive) was the turning point,&uot; Walt Ketchings said. &uot;You can’t say enough about that line. That’s the best we’ve ever blocked. Chase is one of our senior captains, and we knew we had to step up and play hard for him.&uot;

The Rams, however, struggled moving the ball for most of the game until Travis Allen’s 28-yard run for a touchdown with 4:53 left in the game cut it to 33-14. The Rams had just 118 yards rushing and were in negative yards at halftime against a defense that bottled up the attack quite well.

The Rams had some key plays from their special teams to put the offense in good field position on two occasions, but both times they came up empty on fourth down. A fourth-and-13 play at the Trinity 19 ended in a 14-yard loss, Guice’s pick early in the third quarter was on a fourth-and-12 at the Trinity 8.

&uot;Those red zone mistakes killed us,&uot; Hayles said. &uot;We had some missed assignments, and we didn’t do a good job of blocking. Their linebacker corps made us pay for that.&uot;

Said linebacker Ivan Nastally: &uot;Once we took them out of their game, we had them. If you hit a big guy all game, it’ll wear him down. I think we wore them down.&uot;

The Rams scored first when Allen returned an interception 68 yard for a score.