Run game, defense lead way for Green Wave
Published 2:33 am Saturday, November 13, 2010
NATCHEZ — After a poor first half put Cathedral in a 14-6 halftime hole, it turned out all the Green Wave needed in the second half was a little thunder and lightning.
The Cathedral running back duo of Jadarius Ealey and Khalil Brice combined to rush 23 times for 125 yards and score two touchdowns in the second half as the Green Wave came back to defeat Noxapater 21-14 in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs.
It was Cathedral’s first playoff win in seven tries since its last postseason victory in 1997.
Email newsletter signup
“Call me and J.D. thunder and lightning,” Brice said. “We step up and support each other. Whoever the coach calls on, we’ll go full speed.”
Cathedral coach Ron Rushing could only smile when told about Brice’s self-appointed nickname for the Green Wave backfield.
“If he runs like he did tonight, you can call him whatever you want,” Rushing said. “Both of our running backs run the ball extremely hard, and in the second half they took control of the game.”
After Noxapater punted on its opening possession of the second half, Cathedral drove 78 yards in 12 plays, with nine of those being runs.
Brice capped off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run, and quarterback Caleb Upton passed to Tyler Flemming for the two-point conversion to tie the score with 2:29 remaining in the third quarter.
After the Cathedral defense stopped Noxapater on fourth down at midfield early in the fourth quarter, the Green Wave offense once again rammed the ball down the Tigers’ throat.
This time it took nine plays for the Wave to punch it in, with eight of them being runs.
Ealey capped off the drive with a 6-yard burst up the middle and Brent Gaudé’s extra point gave Cathedral a seven-point lead with 7:50 to play.
Ealey finished the game with 114 yards on 23 carries, despite battling through leg cramps in the second half.
“That wasn’t going to keep me out,” Ealey said. “I was going to come back and do whatever it took to help my team. Whatever it takes to win, I’ll do.”
With the Cathedral offense having done it’s job, it was time for the Green Wave defense to take over.
And did it ever. Cathedral’s defense smothered the Noxapater offense in its final two drives, never letting the Tigers get close to tying the score.
Tyler Flemming ended Noxapater’s first drive after Ealey’s touchdown when he sacked quarterback Ethan Hamilton and forced a fumble that Josh Callaway recovered.
Noxapater got the ball back once more at its own 20-yard line with 2:56 left after Gaudé missed a field goal, but once again, the Cathedral defense wouldn’t budge.
Callaway ended the drive and Noxapater’s chance at victory by pressuring Hamilton and forcing an errant throw on fourth down with 2:14 remaining.
“There’s no way to describe the feeling (after the fourth down stop),” Callaway said. “I was so excited I didn’t know what to do. As soon as I got my hands on him I knew it was over.”
Callaway’s last play was emblematic of the entire second half, as the Green Wave defensive line made a living in the Noxapater backfield.
“We finally wore them down enough,” Callaway said. “They are young and not very strong, and they got tired in the second half. I was getting by them as easy as I could.”
It was a far cry from the first half, when Cathedral’s offense and defense wasn’t clicking, and Noxapater took advantage.
The Tigers scored less than four minutes into the game on a 1-yard run by Stanley Smith.
After Upton brought Cathedral to within 7-6 with a 15-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, the Tigers answered right back with a long drive that ended with a 3-yard plunge by Trey Baber.
The half ended on a sour note for Cathedral as Gaudé had a 27-yard field goal was blocked with less than 10 seconds left.
But Rushing said lessons learned from a 26-6 loss to Dexter two weeks ago helped his team on Friday.
“In the first half we played passive,” Rushing said. “When we got down early at Dexter, we fell apart, so we talked about coming back strong. In the second half we came back and hit them in the mouth.”
Cathedral will get a rematch with Dexter next week in the second round of the playoffs.
The Bulldogs defeated South Leake 43-24 on Friday and will host the Green Wave next week.
But before looking ahead to next week’s game, the Green Wave players and coaches are going to enjoy a win 13 years in the making.
“I’m glad we could win this for Cathedral’s alumni and fans,” Rushing said. “They are very deserving of this. You always hear about how well Cathedral supports its team. The support we had tonight was unbelievable.”