Dream season for CHS begs the question ‘What if?’

Published 12:01 am Sunday, November 30, 2014

And y’all thought I was crazy.

Before the season, I made two bold predictions — Cathedral would have the best record in the area and Ferriday was going to upset Natchez.

Turns out I’m only half crazy.

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With a 28-19 victory against Nanih Waiya, Cathedral’s record climbed to 13-1, one win shy of Centreville’s remarkable 14-1 record. In the process of clinching the south state title, Cathedral head coach Ron Rushing won his 50th game as head coach of Cathedral. It took Rushing just five years to achieve that win total. As Rushing celebrated with his team following a dramatic victory — propelled by a fake punt run by Wyatt Boothe in the closing minutes — a question came to mind, “What if?” The question stemmed from a flashing headline in the back of my mind, the time I read that Rushing was as good as gone three years ago. Offered the Brookhaven High School offensive coordinator job after his team reached the south state championship in 2011, Rushing jumped all over the opportunity to coach MHSAA 5A football in April 2012. It lasted three days.

“It never felt right,” Rushing said. “I threw up a time or two. I told Brookhaven coach Tommy Clopton that I made the wrong decision. The people I work with, the kids, the alumni, Cathedral is a family. They always said that, and it’s true.”

Fast-forward to spring in 2014, where I met Rushing for the first time when I was covering a Cathedral baseball game. Everything I knew about him was simply from reading the paper, so I picked his brain about his offense, about who to look out for and about what he thought of the upcoming season. I can remember him telling me, “We’re going to be good this year, but we’re going to be great next year.” That comment, of course, was fueled by the amount of underclassmen he was playing on both sides of the ball. At the time, he had yet to name a starting quarterback, and the void Thomas Garrity was leaving was glaring.

Now, fast-forward again, this time to the jamboree encounter against Wilkinson County Christian Academy to open the 2014 season, and Rushing was dialed in, wearing green and signaling in the plays to his offense with the upmost confidence. The football landscape in the Miss-Lou shifted dramatically when Trinity Episcopal’s top three players transferred to Cathedral. The transfers —Boothe, Dee Fleming and Quinton Logan — looked the part. Boothe connected with Fleming on the first play of the exhibition for a 70-yard touchdown catch and run. The added three playmakers, along with the dominance showcased on the offensive line and defensive line, combined with players like running back Christian Jenkins and wide receivers Jardarius Anderson and R.J. Givens would make anyone covering the sport pause and ponder. All of a sudden Mister Geppetto (Rushing) had an abundance of toys to pull strings and manipulate defenses with. And judging from my conversations with Rushing since our first encounter, I knew he had the offensive expertise to put together something dangerous for 2014.

Following the jamboree, I wrote the gamer, and was heading home when Rushing called me. By that time, nearing 1 a.m., Rushing said he had already watched the film twice and was too excited to sleep. We began dissecting his team, and once he revealed some of his ideas involving certain skill players, I knew his concepts would mesh well with his talent pool.

A few months later after that conversation, Rushing has coached his team up to playing for a state championship with a 13-1 record people flat out didn’t see coming. This Friday, his team has the chance of bringing the school its first state championship win.

And to think, what if Rushing took the Brookhaven job?


JAKE MARTIN is the sports editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or jake.martin@natchezdemocrat.com.