Wave’s season crashes

Published 12:21 am Saturday, November 26, 2011

NOXAPATER — With time running out and Cathedral High School trailing 54-39, quarterback Caleb Upton threw the ball down field in hopes of pulling off another big play to lead his team to a come-from-behind win.

But the ball was picked off by Noxapater High School’s Barrett Carter, who returned it to the Cathedral 42-yard line. From there, the Tigers ran several rushing plays to run out the clock, and the Green Wave could only watch as their hopes of making it to the state championship game ticked away.

Cathedral was hoping to add a little Green to Black Friday in the South State title game Friday night, but Noxapater used a strong rushing attack that tallied 401 yards to keep the Wave at bay.

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“They took it to us,” Cathedral head coach Ron Rushing said. “The better team won tonight. They executed and got after us. We came out and played hard at the end, and I was proud of that.”

Cathedral trailed 47-31 going into the fourth quarter, but a 14-yard touchdown reception by Tyler Flemming cut the Tiger lead to 47-37. The Green Wave, which hadn’t gotten a two-point conversion in the game up to that point, decided to put the ball in running back Jadarius Ealey’s hands. Ealey delivered, diving over the top of the pile into the end zone, making it 47-39 with 6:21 left to play.

The Green Wave went for the onside kick, but failed to recover it. Noxapater drove down the field before Cathedral’s Khalil Brice forced a fumble out of Noxapater quarterback Ethan Hamilton’s hands. Flemming recovered the ball, giving Cathedral the chance to at least make it a one-point game.

But the Green Wave traded possessions with the Tigers, before Cathedral finally got the ball back with almost five minutes left. Facing fourth-down situation on its own 36-yard line, Cathedral completed a pass downfield that would have been a first down, only for the referee to whistle the play dead and penalize Cathedral for offsides, even though Upton had sat in the pocket for several seconds already.

“That’s our fourth-down play right there,” Rushing said of the controversial penalty. “That’s a 15- to 20-yard play, and that call is absolutely huge. You run your fourth-down play, and they call a penalty for a guy that’s off the line for offsides, it just kind of takes the steam out of you.”

Cathedral was unable to convert after the penalty, and Noxapater scored after the turnover on downs with a 6-yard run by running back Trey Baber with 3:11 left.

The Green Wave opened the game with a 33-yard touchdown catch by Kyle Bradley, but Noxapater answered with a 34-yard touchdown run by Hamilton. On the ensuing kickoff, Ishmael Blackmon scored on an 85-yard kickoff return, but the Green Wave missed the extra point.

Baber later scored on a 64-yard run with 8:40 left to play, but Cathedral’s Carl Hammitte answered with a 25-yard touchdown reception at the 2:08 mark. Cathedral went for two but failed to convert, making it 19-14 Green Wave. Noxapater rounded out the first-quarter scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run after a long kickoff return with 1:49 left in the first.

Baber added a 56-yard punt return with 11:35 left in the first. Ealey scored from 1 yard out to give Cathedral its final touchdown before the half, but Baber scored on an 8-yard run with 18 seconds left to make it 35-25 Tigers at intermission.

Baber had a 7-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter with 4:20 left, and Hamilton added a 16-yard touchdown run with 1:05 left. Upton ran it in from 1 yard out as time expired in the third.

Baber had 205 yards on the ground, and Hamilton added 183. Many of Noxapater’s rushing yards came on option plays, and Rushing said his team simply didn’t have an answer for the Tigers’ ground game.

“I’m going to have to go back and look at film, but we had someone on the quarterback and pitch man, and maybe they were just faster than I thought,” Rushing said. “I probably did a poor job scheming up defensively. Apparently, I did. We tried to adjust, but they kept hitting us.”

Cathedral finished the season 12-2.