Upton, Huffines form tandem

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cathedral High School wide receiver Daniel Huffines catches a pass during practice Tuesday afternoon at Cathedral’s practice field. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — When Cathedral High School’s Caleb Upton drops back for a pass, there’s a good chance the ball might be heading Daniel Huffines’ way.

Not because Upton locks onto Huffines, but because Huffines has a knack for getting open, Upton said.

It also helps when there’s a lot of familiarity between the two.

“We always throw routes after practice,” Upton said. “It’s usually every day after practice. (Our comfort with one another) started from there.”

The suggestion to get additional work in after everyone else went home was something Huffines said came naturally as they got to know one another.

“Both of us have a strong drive, and we both want to get better,” Huffines said. “When we realized that about each other, that’s how it started.”

Both seniors, the two began playing at Cathedral together when Upton came to Cathedral in 10th grade, Upton said. But that wasn’t the first time they had played football together.

“We used to play around back in the day,” Upton said.

Huffines clarified, “Backyard football.”

And that familiarity allows the two of them to have a comfort level when they both step on the playing field Friday nights.”

“It’s really important to know what kind of steps (your receiver) takes off the ball,” Upton said. “Throwing every day has kind of helped with that.”

Huffines said post-practice sessions with Upton includes going through all the routes at first, then going back and working on things they don’t feel comfortable with.

“It helps on Friday night,” Huffines said. “It’s the same thing, just a different atmosphere.”

Upton said it helps tremendously having someone of Huffines’ caliber to help out on the offense.

“He’s just a great player,” Upton said. “You give him the ball, and he knows what to do with it. He has a nose for the end zone.”

Even though he’s shorter than most receivers, Huffines more than makes up for it with his athleticism. But that doesn’t stop Huffines from wanting to show the doubters what he can do.

“You want to say it doesn’t bother you, but you hear the talk,” Huffines said. “You always want to prove them wrong, but it all comes down to pure want and knowing how to do it.”

Huffines also said Upton is excellent at getting him the ball.

“He has a competitive drive, and always wants to win,” Huffines said. “He just has that competitive instinct.”

When he’s not making catches, Huffines said he makes sure to throw a block up for a teammate. He also said taking the role of a senior leader has helped the other players tremendously.

“You have to keep them focused on the game and keep their spirits up,” Huffines said.

“Senior leadership either draws the team together, or a lack of it breaks the team apart. If you have none, it shows in the record. If you have a lot, it shows in how everyone interacts.”

Upton also said he’s made sure to do his part in showing leadership on and off the field.

“You have to have a good work ethic and always be willing to set aside personal needs for the good of the team,” Upton said. “Other guys are going to follow your example, so you have to make sure you do the right thing.”

Upton said he’s seen Huffines make so many plays, but one that really stands out to him is last season against St. Frederick High School last season.

“I threw the ball way behind him, and he stuck out his hand and made the catch,” Upton said.

The Green Wave’s Caleb Upton throws a pass during practice Tuesday afternoon at Cathedral’s practice field. Huffines has become Upton’s go-to receiver this season as the Green Wave have started out 6-0. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

For Huffines, Upton has been impressive ever since he took over the reigns with Dylan White graduated in 2010.

“Throw after throw, he always seems to be able to throw the kind of pass he’s looking for,” Huffines said. “When he started, it just clicked for him. He knows how to make the big play.”

With all the success they’ve had together, though, Upton insists he tries to spread the ball around to all the Green Wave receivers.

“It depends on the play,” Upton said. “I really don’t have a preference (who I throw it to), it’s just whoever’s open. That’s usually him.”