No love lost when Cathedral-St. Al square off

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 7, 2002

Joe Graves, an assistant coach at St. Aloysius, goes through a drill as Austin Golding looks on as the Flashes prepared for their annual showdown with archrival Natchez Cathedral. Below, Michael Evans, right, and Josh Martin both go for the ball during Wednesday’s workouts. The Flashes, already assured a playoff berth, can climb as high as the No. 2 seed with a victory at home Friday night. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

When St. Aloysius and Natchez Cathedral get together, it is no longer just a typical Friday night football game.

The teams, nicely put, don’t like each other, and it goes back much farther than Flashes coach Jim Taylor’s five year regime. Even Cathedral coach Ken Beesley, head coach since 1969, finds it difficult to pinpoint when the rivalry developed.

One thing is for sure, there won’t be any mending of the fences this Friday when Cathedral (6-3, 5-3) visits the Flashes (8-2, 6-2) in a game seething with playoff implications.

“You don’t have to do a whole lot of motivating as far as (Cathedral) is concerned. This is equal to the Vicksburg-Warren Central rivalry,” Taylor said. “This is a big game. Catholic school versus Catholic school for bragging rights.

“And it starts with football, gaining bragging rights for the year.”

Bragging rights have been in the Flashes’ favor since Taylor took over the reins five years ago, posting a 4-0 record against Cathedral.

But Taylor is quick to point out that his past success “has nothing to do with this year, except to probably make them want it more.”

No doubt about it, the stakes have been raised for this game.

If the Flashes win, they look at the possibility of a No. 2 seed in the Class 1A state playoffs. A loss still gets the Flashes into the playoffs, but either third or fourth, which means a travel day.

For Cathedral the objective is simple.

“We look at it as a playoff game. If we lose, the season is over. Win, and we’re in the playoffs,” Beesley said. “They’ve been on a roll against us, and we hope to end that Friday night.

“We’ve never beaten coach Taylor, and we need to stop that.”

Putting an end to Taylor’s reign of dominance will mean shutting down the Flashes’ offense, which is centered around the rushing attack of Michael Head and Greg Smith, as well as the strong arm and fleet feet of quarterback Chad Cox.

“I think the offense will do really well this game because Greg, Chad and Michael, they always do well, but this game will be especially big for Greg and Chad because this is their senior game against Natchez,” linebacker Walker Hengst said. “Plus, if we beat them, they don’t go to the playoffs, which is added incentive.”

Cathedral will bring a mirror image offensive attack led by the Jackson brothers, Jonathan and JaMel, who have been the feature runners for three years against the Flashes, and a “very aggressive” offensive line.

JaMel Jackson had 228 yards rushing in last week’s loss to Bogue Chitto.

“We’re about the same type of team. We depend on the defense and the run. We’ll throw, but neither team depends on it,” Beesley said. “It will come down to whose line can dominate the other line.”

Cathedral is also depending on a big game from their 6-1, 245 pound middle linebacker Brent Tosspon if they are to have any success at slowing the Flashes’ ground game.

The Flashes will counter with a host of linebackers eager to “just hit them,” and will also rely on their defensive line to corral the Jacksons.

“Our defensive line has played wonderful all season, and they’re the reason why we’ve done so well,” Hengst said.

“They get a hit as soon as the opponent gets the ball.”

It is not common that St. Al and Cathedral find a common ground, but all involved with the game would probably agree with Smith’s assessment of Friday’s matchup.

“We don’t need to get people to tell us to get pumped up, we don’t need speeches,” Smith said. “Just go out there and we want to beat them.”