New hires highlight start of spring for CHS

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cathedral High School’s Dakota Vaughan tackles teammate Rodney Hall during drills Monday afternoon at Cathedral. Monday was the first day Cathedral was allowed to use full pads. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Cathedral High School is shelving its “throw the ball 50 times per game” offensive philosophy for the time being.

With quarterback Caleb Upton graduating later this month, head coach Ron Rushing said Cathedral’s offense will shift toward being more ball-control oriented.

Along those lines, the Green Wave will rely more heavily on its defense this coming season, Rushing said, which is why he added two new defensive coaches to his staff.

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Former Cathedral and Belhaven University defensive lineman Jonathan Gamberi is the new defensive line and strength and conditioning coach for the Green Wave. New defensive coordinator Jeff Roberts comes from Southern Mississippi, where he served as a graduate assistant on defense.

“Defensively, we want to take it to another level,” Rushing said. “We wanted to bring in a scheme where we didn’t have to change what we were doing every week.”

Rushing also said Cathedral’s quick-strike offense of last season gave the defense a lot of leeway, something that isn’t realistic for this year’s squad.

“Last year, we were able to score so fast, and we had a lot of depth,” Rushing said.

“We could take some chances on defense. This year, we’re going to run the clock and rely heavily on our defense. We won’t have as much depth, and we won’t be able to score as quickly. We’re not going to be able to throw the ball 50 times a game this year.”

Roberts said working under defensive coordinators Todd Bradford and Dan Disch for two separate seasons at USM gave him a lot of good insight on how to coach players.

“They have two totally different philosophies,” Roberts said. “Bradford is a really smart guy and is extremely knowledgeable about football. Disch is a high-energy kind of guy, and kids love to play for him.”

After gleaning coaching styles from those two coaches, Roberts said he wants to be a mix of both Bradford and Disch when it comes to coaching.

“I want to be able to explain the game and teach some things that will help (the players), but I also want to run around and have fun,” Roberts said. “If they make mistakes, as long as they’re playing hard, we’ll be able to fix those mistakes.”

For Gamberi, the chance to coach at Cathedral was a chance to reconnect with his alma mater, Gamberi said.

“I have a lot of pride in my school,” Gamberi said. “If it wasn’t for the family atmosphere at Cathedral, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

In addition to Cathedral, Gamberi said coming back to Natchez will also allow him to get involved with Boy Scouts Troop 158, his former troop, and St. Mary Basilica, the church he attended growing up.

“In my opinion, when you’re blessed with something, it’s good to give back to the community,” Gamberi said.

Rushing said spring practice started last Monday for the Green Wave, and this week marks the first time the players will get to use full pads.

“We’re going to hit a little today,” Rushing said Monday afternoon. “We’re just working on a couple of running plays and a couple of passing plays.”

Quarterback will be a position to watch, as upcoming senior Khalil Brice is expected to get the nod as a starter over upcoming junior Thomas Garrity. When Garrity is not in at quarterback, Rushing said he will line up at receiver.

Garrity backed up Upton last fall, but Rushing insisted there’s no quarterback controversy brewing between the two.

“They’re good friends,” Rushing said. “As close as these kids are, they play a lot of sports together and spend time together, so they’re unselfish. Those are the kind of kids you want to coach.”

Brice is expected to give the Green Wave a dual-threat look at quarterback, Rushing said.

“Whatever we lose in Thomas being quarterback, we gain with Khalil being there,” Rushing said. “He’s 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, and he runs extremely well.”

Cathedral’s spring game will be May 10 versus Salem at West Lincoln High School.