Freshman R.J. Fleming steps in to lead Trinity past River Oaks Friday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Some unfamiliar names stepped up to make key plays at key times as the Trinity Saints (11-2) advanced to the MPSA Class A state championship game with a win over River Oaks Friday night.

Freshman running back R.J. Fleming

rushed for 109 yards and scored three touchdowns, and also picked off three passes in the first half, and junior Matthew Freeman caught three passes for 83 yards and a score as the Saints rolled to a 37-7 win over the Mustangs.

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Senior tailback Stevan Ridley rushed for 165 yards on 20 carries before going down with an ankle injury early in the third quarter.

The key play came with just under three minutes remaining in the second quarter as River Oaks lined up for a fourth-and-one play at the Trinity 45 yard line, trailing 12-7.

A run up the middle by Cody Newcomb was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, and three plays later Ridley was in the end zone from 15 yards out with 1:58 remaining. His two-point conversion run gave the Saints a 20-7 lead, and they never looked back.

&8220;Going for it in that situation was my decision and it was a bad decision,&8221; said River Oaks head coach Robert Hannah.

Things opened up well for the Mustangs, as they drove 70 yards in just four plays to reach the Trinity three yard line before a botched pitch resulted in a fumble, which Ridley recovered and returned to the 25.

Eleven plays later, Fleming was in the end zone from five yards out to give the Saints a 6-0 lead.

Fleming intercepted a Cody Trichell pass on the Mustangs&8217; next drive, but then fumbled, which River Oaks recovered on the Saints&8217; 31.

Trichell then hit Tyler Ginn for a 21-yard touchdown pass to give the Mustangs what would be their only lead of the game.

The Saints answered quickly, as Ridley hit Matthew Freeman on a 36-yard touchdown pass to give the Saints the lead back at 12-7 with 10:53 remaining in the half.

Blaine Misita kicked a 29-yard field goal midway through the third quarter to give the Saints a 23-7 lead, and Fleming scored twice in the fourth to ice the win.

The Saints rolled up 406 yards of total offense on the defending Class A state champions, and allowed the River Oaks offense only 178 yards &8212; only 11 in the second half.

&8220;Our defense has been kind of underrated all year,&8221; said Trinity coach David King. &8220;We&8217;re not dummies, we know that defense wins championships. They did a great job. Giving up seven points to these guys is pretty good.&8221;

Hannah felt the Mustangs could have kept things interesting without the four first half turnovers &8212; and especially the first one.

&8220;That first drive when we got down to the three and fumbled really hurt us,&8221; he said. &8220;If we had punched that one in I feel like we would have been in pretty good shape. You&8217;ve got to take your hat off to Coach King and Trinity. They had a great gameplan and did a great job.&8221;

Fleming, who got the first extended action of his career, said after he shook off the pregame jitters he felt fine.

&8220;I was kind of nervous at first because of all the hype, but I got out the jitters and felt fine,&8221; Fleming said. &8220;I knew (when Ridley went down) that I had a good enough offensive line to run behind.&8221;

King said following the game he was unsure of Ridley&8217;s status.

The Saints will take on Brierfield Academy Thursday afternoon at 1:30 in the MPSA Class A State Championship Game at Mississippi College.