RIDE THAT WAVE: Cathedral looks for first state championship berth in three decades
Published 12:03 am Thursday, November 27, 2014
The table is set for a historical showdown when Cathedral hosts Nanih Waiya for the MHSAA Class A South State Championship Friday night.
A south state title has eluded Cathedral head coach Ron Rushing in his coaching career, something he hopes to change Friday. In the process, Rushing has a chance to give Cathedral fans their first state championship berth in roughly three decades. Cathedral has never won a state championship.
The task will be easier said than done, as Nanih Waiya comes to Natchez with a perfect 13-0 record. Rushing wouldn’t have it any other way, though, and he fully expects a war in the trenches when both teams meet.
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“It’s supposed to be,” Rushing said. “It’s south state. Their linemen are real big upfront and real physical. Where they’re impressive is defensively. They pin their ears back and flat out come after you.”
The Warriors are holding opponents to 13 points per game, generating 19 sacks and 14 interceptions in the process. Senior Jamarlo Smith leads the team in sacks with 13. Smith also is the top rusher for the Warriors, producing 1,833 rushing yards (7.7 yards per carry) and 23 rushing touchdowns.
“He’s as good an athlete there is in (Class A),” Rushing said. “He plays hard on both sides of the ball. I haven’t seen him take a play off yet. His motor runs the whole time.”
Playing Robin to Smith’s Batman in the backfield, freshman Chris Smith is averaging 10 yards per carry, totaling 1,077 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Nanih Waiya presents a run-heavy offense, featuring fullback dives and sweeps out the I-formation. The Warriors average 300 rushing yards per game. As for the passing game, quarterback Ben Cumberland has completed 50 percent of his passes for 682 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.
While Cathedral has plenty of skill players to scheme for defensively, the school’s bread-and-butter, the option-read base offense, will give Nanih Waiya several players to account for. Leading the way for Cathedral this season has been junior Dee Fleming, who has 875 rushing yards, 345 receiving yards and 24 total touchdowns this season. Joining him in the backfield is senior Christian Jenkins who has accumulated 675 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Deciding to give it or pull it in the base offense is senior Wyatt Boothe, who has totaled 499 rushing yards, 1,469 passing yards and 22 total touchdowns.
Rushing said fans could expect to see the same offense they’ve watched all season long.
“We’re not going to change anything up,” Rushing said. “We’ll run the same plays, and you don’t want to over coach just because you’re in the south state championship.”
With 10 underclassmen on defense and seven on offense, Rushing said he’s proud of the progress in his program. With that said, this is his second crack at the south state title in five years, and he doesn’t want to relive that bitter taste of losing again, like he did to Noxapater in 2011.
“We’re excited about where our program is headed, but the time is now,” Rushing said. “We want to get it done.”
Admission to the playoff game at Devereaux Stadium will be $8.