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Youth lead Cathedral to regional title

NATCHEZ — The Cathedral varsity boys soccer team might be used to regional championships, but assistant coach Paul Burns said this one might be a little better.

“It’s always good to win (the region), but this year we have a younger team than we’re used to, and they’ve come together well,” Burns said.

The Green Wave (12-4, 5-0) clinched their second regional championship in a row Friday with a 3-1 win over Wesson High School. The Green Wave have just three seniors this season, two of which have plenty of experience, Burns said.

“One of them just came out this year,” he said. “The other two have been playing four or five years.

“We lost nine seniors from last year’s team, and you look to your seniors for leadership, so it’s a lot easier when you have four or five guys on the field. They’ve stepped up and come together, though. We lost our first two games of the year in the district tournament, and ever since then, they’ve just gotten better and better.”

Burns said a number of those wins have been of the comeback variety, and some games were won on penalty kick shootouts after regulation. The team’s never-say-die attitude is something Burns attributes to Cathedral’s strong soccer tradition.

“We’ve been in the playoffs at least 12 years in a row, and at least half of those have been (regional) wins, so it just kind of breathes through itself,” Burns said. “Even if you have younger kids, they see it, and they have a confidence.

“When it’s someone’s turn to step up and make a (penalty kick) or a needed play late in the game, it’s not just one person doing it. It’s different ones at different times.”

Burns also said head coach Rick Simons has done a great job since taking the reigns of the team after being an assistant for several seasons.

“He came here right after Hurricane Katrina, and we asked him to come out and help us,” Burns said.

“He grew up playing soccer as a kid, whereas the rest of us coaches picked it up because our kids played it. Having been out on the field, he brought in different tactics and style of play than we’ve had in the past.”

Even so, Burns said Simons hasn’t totally changed up what the program has been doing for over a decade.

“He meshed and molded it with what Cathedral soccer was already doing,” Burns said. “He’s also a young guy, so he relates to the kids.”

Cathedral will host Franklin County Friday, then round out is regulars season against Natchez High School Saturday. Franklin County is in Cathedral’s region, so there’s more than bragging rights at stake for that game.

“Yeah, we won district and we’re hosting a playoff game, but when was the last time we went undefeated in district?” Burns said. “With Natchez, it’s a bragging rights game.”

But Burns said he doesn’t want his team getting lackadaisical these last two games either.

“We want to keep them focused,” he said. “You have to keep them playing well. If you play two sloppy games going into the playoffs, you’re liable to play a sloppy game in the playoffs.”

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