Saints win state title in runaway

Published 12:05 am Saturday, November 28, 2009

JACKSON — Standing on the sidelines during a state championship game, you are liable to hear coaches shout many different things to their players.

“Has everybody gotten in?” isn’t usually one of those things.

But such was the beating that Trinity Episcopal put on DeSoto School (Ark.) in the MAIS Class A title game Friday afternoon, that that’s exactly what Trinity assistant coach Bill James was yelling to the players as the Saints coaches emptied the bench in the final minutes of a 37-7 rout.

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Trinity’s defense physically dominated the Thunderbirds’ offense, especially in the second half, as the Saints held DeSoto to just 17 offensive yards and outscored them 23-0.

“I’m just amazed,” Trinity senior defensive lineman Deacon Newman said. “Our defensive line stepped up and the linebackers swarmed to the ball and did an amazing job. (Defensive coordinator) coach (Richy) Spears got us prepared so well, I’m just amazed at how well we did.”

But the state championship wasn’t just about how the Saints played on Friday, it was about all the hard work the players put in beginning in the summer and continuing all the way through the season.

“All the blood, sweat and tears, trials and tribulations we all came through were for this,” senior running back R.J. Fleming said. “It was definitely worth it. It’s a great feeling. We’re champions.”

Trinity head coach David King said the coaches and players knew the team would have an opportunity to compete for a state championship when they found out the were moving back down to Class A this season.

The key was putting the work in to meet that goal.

“In Class AA the last two years we were very competitive and had some great seasons, but when we found out we were moving to Class A, we had some meetings and told the kids, ‘Listen, this is the chance of a lifetime, we’ve just got to roll our sleeves up and get to work,’” King said. “All through the summer these kids were dedicated. Those long film sessions on the weekend, working out on Mondays and Wednesdays, we stayed to our beliefs on what we were trying to accomplish and we did it.”

And that hard work came to fruition at Harper Davis Field on the campus of Millsaps College Friday afternoon.

Trinity got on the board first when Fleming threw a 17-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to a leaping Brandon Daggs, who was playing the game wearing a heavy brace on his left knee after tearing his ACL in last week’s game.

“(That touchdown) felt real good,” Daggs said. “I saw it in and caught it, then jumped up and was like ‘What ACL? What ACL?’ It feels great.”

Trinity upped its lead to 14-0 midway through the second quarter following a 5-yard touchdown run by Fleming.

However, DeSoto got back in the game late in the first half, as the Thunderbirds capped an 11-play drive with a Cody Manning 7-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Cruz with 1:23 remaining in the second quarter.

While DeSoto’s touchdown put the Thunderbirds back in contention, it also might have sealed their doom, as Trinity came out of the halftime break refocused, especially on defense.

“We were nervous in the first half,” King said. “I think (DeSoto’s touchdown) was the best thing that happened to us because we were up but weren’t playing great, and they scored that touchdown. We got together and the guys realized that (DeSoto) is here to play and we’ve got to stop these mental mistakes. We came out in the second half and executed like we are capable.”

And did they ever.

Fleming’s 8-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter gave the Saints a 21-7 lead and then a flurry of points at the beginning of the fourth period buried the Thunderbirds for good.

It began on the second play of the fourth quarter, when Givonni Dent sacked Manning in the end zone for a safety.

Fleming then returned DeSoto’s free kick to the Thunderbirds’ 42-yard line.

Fleming’s 27-yard pass to Dent two plays later put the Saints at the 10, and Kent King ran it in the end zone on the next play to give Trinity a 30-7 lead.

Trinity’s defense forced a three and out on DeSoto’s next possession, and Tanner Cage returned the Thunderbirds’ short punt to the 7-yard line.

Three runs by fullback Jordan Dossett were all the Saints needed, as the senior plowed in from two yards out for the final score of the game.

The state championship is Trinity’s fourth overall, and third since 2001.

“After all the hard work, I’m just so happy for the kids,” King said. “It’s always special to have a group with a total focus in mind. You want to win (a championship) every year. Obviously it doesn’t happen that way, but when you get there and play a high caliber of football like we do and get to this point, it’s a total relief that we pulled it off. I’m just happy for those seniors.”