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|Marks leads Cathedral to bowl win|
The 1971 Huntington state football championship team or the 1982 state championship squad at Adams County Christian School?
That's a question Bobby Marks of Ferriday gets asked a lot about which team was better.
Actually some people will tell you Marks' finest coaching job may have been in 1978, his only year at Cathedral High School. Marks led Cathedral to its only undefeated regular season.
"I had no idea of that until the end of the season," Marks said.
A shake-up in conferences left Cathedral playing as an independent in 1978.
Green Wave head coach Roy Garcia took the sole role of athletic director that season and hired Marks as head football coach.
Marks came over from Thomas Jefferson because the private school located on the north side of Natchez shut down.
"We were excited," said Cathedral quarterback Clay Arnold. "We knew we would have an incredible team. We had a lot of holes on our team. But we knew if you put their guys together with our guys and put Bobby Marks in the mix to go along with Ken Beesley, then we would have everything we needed to be an explosive football team. Chemistry is something you develop. These were guys who wanted to win and we were tired of losing. We were glad to have them."
Marks made sure the new additions mixed well with the returning Green Wave players.
"When I was at Thomas Jefferson and ACCS we used a big hunting camp in the swamps at Church Hill as a preseason football camp and we would have some cooks out there," Marks said. "Cathedral had never had a camp. I grabbed Joe Fortunato and we went to an airstrip with cotton fields on both sides in Woodville. Those guys who didn't know each other before really bonded. I'll never forget Elvis Presley died while we were out there. Ken Beesley was my assistant coach then and he was a dandy."
Beesley was an assistant coach to Roy Garcia and stayed on as an assistant to Marks before taking over as head coach in 1979.
"Those kids meshed real well and I think the hunting camp had a lot to do with that," Beesley said. "They had five or six real good athletes and we had five or six. We still didn't have a lot of depth, but those 11 made up a real good team. We had Clay Arnold, Mike Fortunato, Greg Whitam, David Earl Smith, Juan Thompson and they had Jamie Andrews, Sonny Buckles and Jerry and Timmy Walker. We didn't have a lot of close games that year."
Jerry Walker said the entire atmosphere was different at Cathedral.
"We really felt like we would go in there and mesh well, even though I believe there were some people a little bit afraid of the 'mongrels' coming in from TJ." Walker said. "But it was a great experience. It was a more family-oriented situation at Cathedral. The glue was a lot thicker there. And it helped having Coach Marks with us. TJ was a lot of fun, but there was also a lot looser atmosphere. There are some great memories at both places. I believe the camp in the bean field really did help us come together. And then we really got on a roll once the season started. It was a super time."
Cathedral opened the season against Raymond, who was picked to win the Capital Athletic Conference in Jackson.
"I remember Charlie Westmoreland telling me how bad they beat Cathedral the year before and how they were going to put a hurt on us," Marks said. "They drove up in two school buses. We got ahead of them 24-0 and I told Clay that we were going to freeze the ball in the second half. He looked at me and said, 'Coach, I think you are confused, that's basketball.' We quick-kicked on third down twice inside their 5-yard line and then we would get it bad and chew up seven minutes. It ended up 26-0. Clay came up to me after the game and said, 'Coach, you did freeze it.' Clay was a 'heckuva' an athlete."
"That was against everything I had ever learned," Arnold said. "I had never heard of that. But it worked."
Marks also remembers a talk he had with Clay against Raymond.
"The first time we had the ball we drove the length of the field down inside their 5-yard line," Marks said. "I called a 33-wham with Sonny Buckles carrying the ball. Charlie tells me, 'Coach, last year Clay would get down there and wouldn't listen to the play and would change it to a passing play.' I called Clay over and I said, 'I want to tell you something, when I call a play you run it. If you drop back and pass the ball, I will kill you in front of everybody.' He ran the play."
Raymond was led by Thomas Bunting, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder who was getting attention from several big colleges.
"We still didn't know how good we were," Arnold said. "We held them after the kickoff and they punted the ball to me and I took a couple of steps to the left and then went right and took it to the house. We were winning 20-0 at halftime. That's when Coach Marks talked about freezing the ball."
Cathedral finished the regular season at 9-0.
At that time, the Natchez Knights of Columbus decided to start a bowl game, appropriately named the River City Bowl. It would go on to include a local team such as Cathedral, North Natchez or Vidalia against an out of town team.
Cathedral was invited to play in the first River City Bowl game and officials invited Lake High.
"Lake had a 60-game winning streak at the time, which was the longest in the nation and they declined to play us," Arnold said. "So what we did is went up to Wal-Mart and bought a box of panties and sent them to them and told them that's what we thought of them."
River City Bowl organizer Freddie Biglane said Lake was playing in its conference championship game, but was told the date would be pushed up if they wanted to come after that game.
"But they still declined," Biglane said.
Clarkdale of Meridian accepted the invitation.
"We were so dejected after Lake declined coming that we really weren't fired up for Clarkdale," Arnold said.
Cathedral won the game 20-0 as Arnold scored all three touchdowns and had a long punt return and was named Offensive MVP of the game. Buckles was named Defensive MVP.
"The River City Bowl was such a great bowl because the people who organized it put so much into it," Arnold said.
After beating Clarkdale, Cathedral players turned in their uniforms and began playing basketball.
"Sister Mary (Junkin) came to me and said we had been invited to play in another bowl game (Shriner's Bowl in Leakesville) ," Marks said. "I told her the kids were playing basketball and we didn't need to to. But she insisted. I enjoyed my year there. There are some real good people there."
Arnold said the players actually voted on whether to go to the bowl game in Leakesville and it ended up being 26 for playing the game and 26 against playing the game. Arnold voted against playing against George County, which would be the host team for the bowl game.
"I would have rather finished unbeaten then had the chance of losing to a team two classes bigger than us," Arnold said. "That team, if it would have finished unbeaten, would have lived in infamy. But it didn't work out like that."
George County led Cathedral 26-3 at halftime.
"We had about 200 yards in penalties in the first half," Arnold said. "Instead of coming to the end zone to talk to us at halftime, Coach Marks went to the officials and told them if they throw one more flag on us we were packing up and going home,"
The Green Wave rallied back and trailed 26-24 late in the game.
"We were on their 25-yard line and I saw Mike Fortunato going into the end zone," Arnold said. "But instead of throwing a bullet, I sort of lobbed it and their guy picked it off."
Cathedral's 14-0 win over Clarkdale was not the only championship/bowl shutout win for Marks. His 1971 Huntington team blanked Riverside of Reserve 12-0 and his ACCS team shut out Indianola 22-0.
"People often ask me what was my best team," Marks said. "I never really say. Each team had really good defenses and on offense we would run the T formation or Notre Dame Box and keep the ball seven or eight minutes each time we got the ball on offense."
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