Cathedral tops Nanih Waiya en route to state championship
Published 12:02 am Saturday, November 29, 2014
NATCHEZ — Facing a fourth down with a two-point lead and three minutes to play in the game, (13-1) Cathedral head coach Ron Rushing dialed up a play-call that would punch his team’s ticket to the state championship game.
Rushing, who installed a fake punt with Wyatt Boothe running the ball earlier in the week, made the call on a 4th-and-5 near midfield. Boothe took the snap, broke free and rushed down the sideline for 51 yards to set up an eventual one-yard score and 28-19 victory against (13-1) Nanih Waiya.
“All I know is my mind was racing 100 miles per hour,” Boothe said. “The play-calling was perfectly timed. I think I probably scored on it, but there’s no telling.”
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Rushing said he installed the play in a wide formation, but his players offered him some advice after watching the film.
“We put it in tight, and the kids said, ‘let’s go wide and try it,’ and so we did and it worked,” Rushing said. “That play was huge.”
Cathedral recovered a fumbled kickoff following the score to seal the team’s fate, but the beginning of the fourth quarter saw Cathedral in peril. The Green Wave were up 21-12 before Nanih Waiya quarterback Ben Cumberland followed his offensive line into the end zone on a 4th-and-1 conversion on the goal line. The touchdown cut Cathedral’s lead to two, and on the ensuing kickoff, Nanih Waiya recovered an onside kick with six minutes remaining in the game. Cathedral’s defense was called upon, and the unit answered. James Coley made back-to-back tackles for loss on first and second down.
“He was determined to win the ballgame,” Rushing said. “We fed off of him.”
Facing a 3rd-and-15, Quinton Logan, who was battling a pulled quad, made the sack, but the ball was jarred loose. Coley saw the fumble and dove on the pile, drawing a personal foul penalty. As the Cathedral sideline erupted in angst over the call, Nanih Waiya lined up in shotgun to try and convert a 4th-and-5. The Warriors ran a speed sweep with Peyton Jones, and Coley, along with a pack of Green Wave defenders, dropped him in the backfield for the loss, giving their offense the ball back.
Besides giving up a 74-yard touchdown run by Jamarlo Smith and 51-yard touchdown by Chris Smith, the Green Wave defense stifled Nanih Waiya’s offense, limiting the Warriors to 232 total yards.
“I think we made a statement,” Coley said.
As for Cathedral’s offense, Christian Jenkins and Dee Fleming, also known as salt and pepper, led the way early. Cathedral’s first score of the game came early in the second quarter when Boothe found R.J. Givens for a 14-yard reception. The play was set up by a 33-yard Jenkins run. Jenkins recorded 127 of his 146 rushing yards in the first half. While most of Fleming’s rushing contributions came in the second half, he scored from five yards out on the ensuing drive to give Cathedral a 14-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
“Before the game started, we talked to each other and said, ‘we have to keep pushing, and we have to get this momentum going,’” Fleming said. “That’s exactly what we did. He made some big runs, and I’m proud of him for doing it.”
Fleming finished the game with 134 rushing yards.
With a 14-12 lead in the third quarter, Cathedral turned the ball over on Nanih Waiya’s 15-yard line. The Warriors tried to get tricky on their ensuing drive, as the coaching staff drew up a halfback pass. Chris Smith caught the pitch, looked up at a wide-open Isaiah Eiland and threw toward him. Cathedral’s JJ Jenkins, who was told to watch out for the crack-back block by teammate Craig Bradley, was beat on the route, but recovered and made the interception.
“Craig yelled, ‘crack,’ and the guy came at me, and ran right past me, so I knew it was pass all the way,” JJ said. “He made a bad throw, underthrew it and I made the play.”
With the interception putting Cathedral at the Nanih Waiya’s 20-yard line with under four minutes to go in the third quarter, Cathedral took advantage on a fourth down touchdown pass from Boothe to Logan for 25 yards, making the score 21-12.
Following the game, Christian couldn’t believe he was going to play for a state championship.
“I never thought it would happen in my lifetime,” Christian said. “I can’t even describe (this feeling). It’s phenomenal.”
The Green Wave will play for a state championship for the first time since 1993. The Green Wave’s opponent Friday at 11 a.m. in Starkville is one Cathedral knows well, as Cathedral beat St. Aloysius in the first game of the season, 42-31. Rushing, who won his 50th game as head coach of Cathedral Friday night, said the familiarity will make the game that more memorable.
“They’re gunning for us,” Rushing said. “It’s a big rivalry.”