Special journey: Cathedral’s Rushing named All-Metro Coach of the Year
NATCHEZ — The scoreboard read 44-27. Cathedral had suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of Oak Forest. But head coach Ron Rushing was going to make sure it was their last.
“That was the game that got us rolling,” Rushing said. “I put that game on the schedule for one reason, I knew we would be the underdog.”
The Green Wave entered the matchup sitting comfortably at 7-0 and appeared to be cruising into the playoffs, but Rushing wanted to give his team a wake up call.
“I really wanted us to be tested toward the end of the year, and we played them really well,” Rushing said. “We had some opportunities to win that game, and in the defeat, I think we got a lot of confidence.”
Confidence was the last thing any Green Wave opponent wanted to come up against, and with Rushing at the helm, the run to the first state championship in school history began.
But before any of that could happen, Rushing was going to have to build up a program he inherited just five short years ago.
After taking over in 2010, Rushing has led the Green Wave to 51 wins, capped off by this year’s state championship victory.
Rushing had brushes with greatness, most notably in the 2011 season with his team reaching the South State title game, but falling short. It was time for him to conquer the road-block.
“We wanted to win the state championship as much for him as the kids,” Cathedral assistant coach Kurt Russ said. “He’s been so close in so many different aspects in sporting and never really got that top prize. Watching him finally get it, it was beautiful to watch.”
Coming off an 8-4 campaign last year, Rushing felt great about his team and their chances.
“I always thought this group was going to be good,” he said. “I’ve told people in the past that I thought this junior class would be the first ones to have a chance to win it.”
But before the season began, Rushing was forced to make his first difficult coaching decision of the year — the type of offense he loved was about to take a backseat.
“We like to throw the football, but we’ve always been able to run a little bit,” Rushing said. “I was wanting to throw early in the year, but just after practice and seeing them perform, we realized we had something special with the line and the three guys we had in the backfield that were able to run the ball.”
So the Green Wave rolled over opponents on the ground, racking up more than 200 yards rushing per game, while Rushing stood on the sidelines and watched his vision become a reality.
“Offensively, he is crazy,” Cathedral assistant coach Brett Hinson said. “He is a genius. There is no other way to say it. His knowledge of the game, and sitting down and watching film on Sunday’s, well, he’s probably already watched it on Saturday and Friday night after the game, but the way he can break it down and the things he picks up, would take someone else looking at it several times.”
Rushing’s attention to detail and will to win carried the Green Wave, and as he stood on the doorstep of the state championship game, the coach who had been waiting for 15 years was finally able to take in the sights and sounds.
“There have been a lot of good friends of mine and a lot of good teams that I’ve been a part of that haven’t had that opportunity,” Rushing said. “I think, for my journey and where I’ve been so far, I realized how special it was. I don’t know if the kids have yet, but, from my standpoint, I realize all the breaks that you have to have and what it takes to get there. When we were going up there, I tried to really slow down and soak everything in.”
Soon after, Rushing was soaking in an ice bath, as his team lifted the trophy, and what began as a journey weeks before, culminated in ultimate success.
But for Rushing, his job extends beyond the game.
“You just try to lead by example and do the right thing,” he said. “We are big on setting an example for these younger kids in the halls and being good role models. It is not just football practice, we talk about when they are away from school and at school. People don’t realize what all it entails.”
As for if this year was his best coaching job thus far, Rushing said he wasn’t sure.
“I haven’t gone back to look at it from that standpoint, but I know as far as a group of kids, it is one of the closest that I’ve had,” he said. “As far as coaching, I feel like I coach the same. I feel like I’m getting better as I go. But overall, it may be the best.”
So can Rushing put his feet up for a bit and enjoy being on top? Not even close. He is still watching game film and already has next year on his mind.
“It is 24/7,” he said. “I’ve been watching game film since the game was over with and trying to think of where we are going to move people next year and what twists we can make to get us back to where we are.”
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