Wave aim for South

Published 12:01 am Thursday, November 24, 2011

NATCHEZ — With each win the Cathedral football team moves closer to its ultimate goal of bringing home the MHSAA-1A State Championship, but each win also creates a new challenge each week by forcing the Green Wave to prepare for tougher and tougher opponents.

This week the Green Wave are preparing for the South State Championship Game against Noxapater, a team that has won its last 10 games and is undefeated in Class-1A play.

“They are real athletic,” Cathedral head coach Ron Rushing said. “They are not real big, but they are extremely fast. Coach (Tyler) Peterson schemes up as well as I’ve seen.”

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Cathedral’s JaDarius Ealey tries to get around Nanih Waiya’s Ethan Stevenson, left, and Deandre Holmes during their playoff game Nov. 18 at Cathedral. Cathedral will travel to Noxapater Friday to play for the South State Championship.

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Not only will Cathedral have to beat one of its best opponents of the season, it will have to do so in its first road playoff game.

“We knew we’d have to (play on the road) sooner or later,” Rushing said. “We were fortunate enough to have two home games. We expect to have a lot of fans there. We’ve (gone on the road) before. We know what we need to do.”

When the Green Wave completes its three-and-a-half hour trek across the state, they expect to face a team that will try to establish a consistent running game out of spread formations, Rushing said.

“They spread the ball out offensively and run the veer option out of the shotgun,” Rushing said. “The use a full scheme and run powers and traps. They like to run the ball but can throw well when they throw.”

Rushing said Noxapater quarterback Ethan Hamilton leads the offense with his ability to run and throw.

“He’s about 6-foot-2, 220 pounds and runs the ball real well,” Rushing said.

Cathedral’s potent offense has shown potential to do many things well this season, and Rushing said each week he struggles to figure out what Cathedral’s opponents would try to do to stop his offense. This week is no different, he said.

“I have no idea,” he said. “We don’t know if they will run man or zone. We are working on all our concepts like it’s a regular week of practice.”

Rushing said the key for his offense would be to establish the running game early, which will allow them to open up the pass to keep Noxapater guessing.

Despite having some questions regarding aspects of the Xs and Os in Friday’s contest, Rushing said he has no questions about how focused the Green Wave players are mentally.

“They are ready to play,” he said. “They are excited about being where they are at. At this point (of the season) everybody is good, it’s just about players making plays.”

Rushing said the words “South State Championship” are not being said at practice, and the players are completely focused on beating Noxapater.

“They haven’t mentioned it yet,” he said. “This is just the next step.”

Another obstacle for the Green Wave to overcome this week is the change in the players’ daily routines brought on by the Thanksgiving holiday, but Rushing said it has not been an issue.

“We’ve kept everything the same,” he said. “We were deciding on whether to practice morning or afternoons, but we kept it the same time as we have all year. We will practice under the lights (today) at 6 p.m.”

Rushing said winning the South State title Friday would be very important for his players and the Cathedral football program.

“It would be huge, absolutely huge,” he said. “They have been looking forward to it all year, and they are excited it’s here.”

Cathedral (12-1) will travel to face Noxapater (10-3) with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.