62nd battle of the Holy War will be a homecoming celebration

Published 12:01 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

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NATCHEZ — It’s going to be a big game.

On Friday, Cathedral hosts St. Aloysius in the 62nd battle of the Holy War, and the game will bring back longtime former coach Roy Garcia and players 1973, 1983 and 1993 for a celebration.

The Green Wave leads the series against St. Aloysius 32-29 overall. Both teams enter the game looking for their first win of 2023. 

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Head Coach Josh Loy said he has yet to win a game against St. Al in his previous three tries with the Green Wave. 

“Anyone who has been a part of this school knows how special and big the game will be. I’ve lost the last three games I’ve been involved with Cathedral against them. We lost those games at the last minute,” Loy said. “There will be a lot of pageantry but our job is to play the game. That is why we are here. It’s our job this week to take a win.” 

Historical night 

In 1973, Cathedral went 9-1 only losing to Vidalia which was a pretty talented team. The Green Wave did not have a district and did not go to the playoffs or play in any bowl games. 

Brad Fondren, who was a member of the 1973 team, will be at the game and his grandson Tristan Fondren is the starting quarterback. His son graduated in 2008 so Tristan would be the third generation of Green Wave players. 

“It is a good time. I love the game and I helped coach a lot of these young men. I coached Tristan too,” Brad said. “I know a lot of the kids on the team. It makes it exciting to see them out there playing for the high school. Cathedral is a close knit family anyway. I have always gone to the games. I’m really excited about this year though. Especially knowing the kids on the team and watching Tristan develop into a good quarterback.” 

Brad was a linebacker and wing back on the 1973 football team. He will be thinking about Barr Brown, a star running back on the 1973 football team, who went on to play at LSU. Brown sadly died in a plane crash in 2006 but Walt Brown with the Cathedral C-Club said Barr’s children will be present for the ceremony. 

“Barr was one of the best athletes I had ever seen in my life. He was one of my really good friends,” Brad said. 

Head Coach Roy Garcia served as a head coach for the 1973 team and served as an assistant coach under head coach Ken Beesley in 1983 and 1993. He will be at the game along with his son. 

Cathedral’s 1983 team won the first playoff game in school history after winning a district title and finished 10-2. Walt said the Green Wave had to play at Pelehatchie in the first round of the playoffs and at Mize in the second round where they lost 7-6. Mize had played a home game in the first round so Cathedral should have been able to host the playoff game but didn’t. Garcia said his son was on the 83 team and remembers the one point loss was due to a bad snap on a field goal. 

In 1993, Cathedral made it all the way to the State Championship and beat St. Aloysius 50-49 in a shootout. St. Al went for a two point conversion to win late in the game and came up short for the Green Wave to take the victory. Cathedral finished the year with a 12-2 record. 

Garcia’s favorite thing about coming back to Cathedral is visiting with the people he coached and taught. He is able to see how the school has transformed over the years and the gymnasium named after him. Garcia finished with 43 years coaching at Cathedral before retiring to Texas. Friday night will be a homecoming for him. 

“It is always great to come back home. I look forward to the celebration,” Garcia said. “I have so many memories. One thing that I realize now as time passes by is you don’t realize the influence you have on kids until you hear from them years later. They let you know what you meant to them. That is why I coached. I wanted to help kids. I wanted to make them better citizens. Parenting is one of the toughest jobs there is. You see the kids now and they are parents. It is amazing and it is unreal. Relationships are the key to life.” 

Playing for keeps

This year a new trophy will be on the line as sponsored by the Knights of Columbus chapter in Natchez and Vicksburg. Walt Brown said the trophy will be named the Al Camp Cup in honor of Fr. Al Camp. 

Friday night’s trophy will be a temporary trophy with a more durable and higher quality trophy being constructed. The score from every game played in the series will be inscribed on the base of the final trophy. 

Camp served in Natchez for 12 years and 23 years in Vicksburg as a priest, principal and teacher. He died in 2019. 

“He would wear a hat with two bills on it. One side would be St. Aloysius and the other Cathedral,” Walt said. “He was loved by everyone.” 

The trophy has brought excitement to the game and the players. Loy said he told his squad this week. 

“It’s exciting for the kids and adds spice to the rivalry. They are excited about it. Hopefully we will be the first to take it,” Loy said. “We told them Monday and they were pretty excited about it. They just had excitement. We have a lot of things we can build off of from last week. The trophy adds more fuel to the fire.”

Cathedral vs St. Al kickoffs at 7:30 p.m.