WAYNESBORO, Miss. (WDAM) - On a surprisingly balmy August Friday night, where social distancing was merely a concept and masks were considered an option, normal dropped by for a few hours at a 120-yard stretch of grass in Wayne County.
Wayne Academy and Natchez Cathedral High School stepped out under the bright lights at Jaguar Field, where a spirited crowd that filled the bleachers on both sides watched the visiting Green Wave run away to a 34-14 victory in the season-opening football game for both squads.
“It was great for the fans to come out to a game, for everybody to come out and enjoy a football game on a Friday night,” Wayne Academy coach Todd Mangum said. “I hope this isn’t the first and last. I hope we have 10 more.”
The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on school systems, with many delaying the start of the 2020 academic year while waiting for the potentially lethal disease to abate.
Schools belonging to the Mississippi High School Activities Association, saw their sports calendars affected. The spring sports season was eliminated and summer practice schedules were delayed,
Football teams lost up to two games after the MHSAA pushed the start of the season back to Sept.4. Conditions will dictate whether the rest of the games can be played.
Some school districts affiliated with the MHSAA already have made a call, with the Jackson Public School District just announcing Friday that it had cancelled all fall sports at its schools.
Wayne Academy and Natchez Cathedral belong to another governing body, the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools, which has allowed its members to practice.
Many MAIS teams have scrimmaged or played in jamborees, with the main schedule set to open on Aug. 21.
Wayne Academy and Natchez Cathedral decided to kick off a week earlier.
The game itself was fairly one-sided, with the Green Wave running out to a 34-0 lead at the start of the third quarter.
“We came out, made some mistakes, and once that snowball got to rolling downhill, there was no way to stop it,” Mangum said.
Receiver Christian Wright gave Natchez Cathedral a 6-0 lead after one quarter, and he then took a second-quarter screen pass from quarterback Noah Russ and weaved his way 35 yards for a second touchdown.
Kadin Bateste went over left guard for the 2-point conversion and the Green Wave led 14-0.
Two possessions later, Bateste hit the left side again, broke a tackle and outran the Jaguars to the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown and 21-0 lead.
Late in the period, Natchez recovered a Wayne fumble at the Jaguars’ 29-yard line, and despite being pushed back 15 yards on consecutive penalty calls, marched to a fourth, first-half touchdown, with Russ keeping from a yard out with 1 minute, 29 seconds, left in the second quarter.
The Green Wave got the opening kickoff of the second half and went 65 yards in 12 plays, with Bateste crashing in from the 2-yard line for a 34-0 lead.
The Jaguars got on the scoreboard late in the fourth quarter, going 54 yards for its first touchdown of the season, a drive Kadin Johnston capped with a 2-yard run.
Then, with the clock ticking off the final seconds, long runs by running back Cross Kittrell and quarterback Stone Ross set up Colin Trigg’s 1-yard touchdown run with 2.1 seconds left in the game.
Xander Pitts kicked both extra points for Wayne Academy.
“Offensively, we’ve got to clean it up,” Mangum said.
The Jaguars are scheduled to welcome South Choctaw Academy at 7 p.m. Friday.