What a rush: Cathedral turns in flawless performance vs. St. Al

Published 12:02 am Saturday, December 6, 2014

Cathedral High School's Dee Fleming runs the football during one of his several long runs in the first half of the MHSAA Class 1A State Championship against St. Aloysius High School. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Cathedral High School’s Dee Fleming runs the football during one of his several long runs in the first half of the MHSAA Class 1A State Championship against St. Aloysius High School. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

STARKVILLE — Leading into the state championship, Cathedral head coach Ron Rushing said he believed his team was playing the best ball they ever had. Minutes after capturing the first state championship in school history, Rushing told his team in a huddle at midfield he thought the team put forth a flawless performance.

Rushing’s play-calling was diverse, trying to spreading the ball to his top playmakers.

“We went back and looked at a lot of our film this weekend, tried to break our trends,” Rushing said. “The bottom line is, we wanted to get the ball to Dee Fleming, Wyatt Boothe and Christian Jenkins. Let them do their job.”

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The offensive-minded coach liked what he saw early on, as Jardarius Anderson returned the opening kickoff 74 yards to St. Aloysius’ 15-yard line. After a 14-yard Jenkins run, Fleming capped the two-play opening drive with a touchdown in less than a minute into the game.

“All week coach preached mentality,” said Fleming of the quick start. “I knew the guy beside me was going to give his all for me, so I had to give my all for them.”

Fleming’s day was just getting started. After St. Aloysius answered on a 63-play scoring drive to tie the game 7-7, Fleming exploded for one of his many highlight reel runs. On the first play of the drive, Fleming hit the hole, made a nice cut at the second level and accelerated for a 61-yard run, putting Cathedral on the Flashes’ 3-yard line. After a one-yard Wyatt Boothe touchdown, Cathedral reclaimed the lead, going up 14-7.

“That was a great run by Dee,” Rushing said. “What an exceptional player. He’s an even better person. He brings so much to our team, his leadership, his character.”

At the start of the second quarter, following a JJ Jenkins interception, Boothe capped off a 75-yard drive with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jardarius Anderson, giving Cathedral a 20-7 advantage.

“We wanted to run a lot of motion, take their eyes off of everything,” Rushing said. “But man, what about the offensive line? They played exceptional. They dominated and knew where they were going whether they were going against an even front or an odd front. These guys know what we want to do offensively, and when you have guys that understand, that adds a lot.”

Following the score, Cathedral asserted itself defensively. Led by James Coley, who kept his eyes locked on St. Aloysius quarterback Connor Smith, the defense held the Flashes to 57 yards in the quarter. The Green Wave limited DeMichael Harris to 35 yards on 11 carries in the half. Harris came into the game averaging nearly 10 yards per carry with 2,062 rushing yards on the season.

“We executed every play like we were taught to every practice,” Coley said. “Coach told us that if we execute to our ability every play, there’s no one that can beat us.”

Meanwhile, the offense executed to near perfection. Boothe, who accounted for four touchdowns in the half, pitched the ball to Dee Fleming for a 61-yard gain, and ultimately ran the ball in from seven yards out to cap a 97-yard drive, going up 28-7 after a Dee Fleming two-point conversion run. Cathedral added another score before the half ended, with Boothe punching in another score from three-yards out. Fleming recorded 107 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards and a touchdown at the half, while Boothe recorded four total touchdowns in two quarters.

Cathedral slowed it down in the second half, but not before adding another score to make it 42-7.

Following a three-and-out, Cathedral drove the ball 48 yards for another score, as Boothe converted a 4th-and-3, running 17 yards for his fifth touchdown of the game. Down 42-7, St. Aloysius marched the ball into Cathedral territory, but the Flashes were stopped on fourth down when Will Wallace beat his man and drove Smith into the ground.

Cathedral pumped the brakes in the fourth quarter, but Zach Flattmann added another touchdown for the Green Wave with a 25-yard run. Smith added a touchdown run for St. Aloysius, his second touchdown of the day, with 1:33 left to play in the game.

Cathedral finished the season with a 14-1 record, and the win against St. Aloysius ties the series at 26-26. Rushing has never lost to St. Aloysius, holding a 6-0 record against Cathedral’s greatest rival.