Cathedral shows off in playoffs

Published 12:38 am Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cathedral’s Khalil Brice gets around West Oktibbeha’s Shun Fair during their game Friday night at Cathedral. Cathedral won the game 43-8 and will advance to the second round of the playoffs. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — A dominant Cathedral High School football team took the field Friday night for the opening round of the MHSAA Class 1A playoffs, and the visitors from West Oktibbeha fell victim to one of the best Green Wave performances of the season.

Cathedral held the Timberwolves to just eight points and 96 yards of offense, while the Green Wave offense accumulated 615 total yards and six touchdowns to get a 43-8 win.

“This is a great win for us,” Cathedral coach Ron Rushing said. “We got what little bit of nervousness we had out of the way, and it’s a great win going forward.”

Rushing said he was especially proud of his defense, which shut down the West Oktibbeha offense that was scoring nearly 35 points a game coming into the contest.

“We played a tough, dominant game on defense,” he said. “We didn’t give them anything. It was one of our best performances of the year.”

The Green Wave jumped out to a 22-0 lead in less than eight minutes of play to take control of the game early.

“I thought we came out and executed early,” Rushing said. “We talked about getting a good start, and we did that.”

Wide receiver Daniel Huffines started the scoring with a 32-yard pass reception from quarterback Caleb Upton. J.D. Ealey ran in the two-point conversion, and the Wave led 8-0 with 8:09 to play in the first quarter.

Upton finished his night with 343 passing yards, going 21 of 39 with two touchdowns. Huffines caught both touchdowns and finished with six catches for 115 yards. Huffines also had two interceptions.

Cathedral’s defense forced a three-and-out on West Oktibbeha’s next possession to get the ball back. It was already the second time the Green Wave defense forced the Timberwolves to go three-and-out, and they would force a total of six in the contest.

Cathedral then took the ball 91 yards in eight plays to score again. Ealey capped the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run. Lee Fairbanks added the extra point, and Cathedral led 15-0.

The next offensive play for West Oktibbeha resulted in a turnover when Huffines intercepted a pass from Timberwolves quarterback Von Smith.

The Green Wave made Smith pay for the interception when Ealey scored his second touchdown of the night on a 14-yard run.

Ealey finished his night with 152 yards rushing on 20 carries and four touchdowns.

“(Four touchdowns) felt great,” Ealey said. “I was glad to be a part of this win for my team.”

The game wasn’t all positives for Ealey, however. He fumbled twice in the first half and had to shake those mistakes to continue to play well for his team, he said.

“I knew I couldn’t get down,” he said. “I’m a senior and a lot of the guys look toward me, so I can’t let it bring me down.”

Cathedral ended up with three lost fumbles in the game.

West Oktibbeha’s lone offensive score came on a 65-yard run by Smith with 3:37 to go in the first quarter. Tiberias Lampkin ran in the two-point conversion to make the score 22-8.

That score stood until early in the second quarter when Upton and Huffines connected again, this time for a 12-yard score.

Ealey added a 1-yard touchdown run later in the second quarter to bring the halftime score to 36-8.

Cathedral capped off the scoring with 8:28 left in the third quarter when Ealey found the end zone from 6 yards out.

Khalil Brice and Ishmael Blackmon also had big nights receiving for the Green Wave. Brice caught five passes for 98 yards, and Blackmon added five catches for 82 yards.

Backup quarterback Thomas Garrity was also able to get into the act, as he connected with Josh Wilkerson twice for 79 yards.

The Green Wave had 28 first downs to just four for West Oktibbeha.

Cathedral (11-1) will host Nanih Waiya (9-3) next week.