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Flashes gearing up for spring game

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, May 14, 2014

For the first two weeks of St. Aloysius’ spring practice, football was put on the back burner.

Other sports and activities ranging from a school play, to golf and baseball, took players away from the gridiron.

It was part of life at a small Class 1A school, coach BJ Smithhart reasoned.

“It’s just spring. It’s a lot of things going on. We’ve still got a lot of numbers,” Smithhart said. “Our kids deal with a lot of activities. It’s part of it. It’s not like they’re missing practice because they’re not coming.”

Now that most of the other sports have concluded their seasons, and the extracurricular activities wound down, it’s time to focus on football.

The Flashes will head to Bogue Chitto on Thursday night to play the Bobcats and Enterprise-Lincoln in a spring jamboree.

Each team’s varsity will get two 10-play possessions against the other, followed by 20 plays for each side with the junior varsity, before the opponents are switched up. At the end of the night, all three teams will have gone through roughly a full game’s worth of plays.

As is often the case this time of year, Smithhart and the Flashes are trying to figure out who fits best into the holes left by departing seniors.

For St. Al, there aren’t many of those.

Nearly all of an offensive line that included Class 1A all-state selections Drake Dorbeck and Josh Price returns. So does starting quarterback Connor Smith, who ran and passed for more than 1,000 yards while earning the Vicksburg Post’s Offensive Player of the Year award.

“We have a good core. Offensive and defensive line will help you win a lot of games,” Smithhart said. “We have a good middle linebacker and we feel like we have a lot of good pieces. We just have to get the right combination.”

The most glaring holes are at the offensive skill positions. Running backs Barrett Teller and Douglas Busari, who combined for more than 1,800 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns while powering the Flashes to the Class 1A semifinals, are both gone.

In their place are two veterans with experience in football, but not much at tailback. Senior Casey Landers, the team’s leading tackler at middle linebacker last season, will pull double duty in the offensive backfield this year.

Landers will be joined by junior Demichael Harris, a speedster who tied for the team lead in interceptions in 2013, returned kicks and caught 11 passes as a wide receiver.

Harris had 14 rushing attempts last season, mostly on end-arounds. Landers had none. Smithhart was confident, however, that their overall experience will allow them to make a smooth transition to their new roles.

“We lost two good tailbacks. We’ve got to that split the load, but haven’t had a high school carry. We’ll be a running football team, so we’ve got to have them,” Smithhart said. “They’ll be upperclassmen. I have no problem with them physically, it’s just the little things like ball security and hitting holes. Things you don’t know until they actually get in a game.”

St. Al spring game

Thursday, 7 p.m., at Bogue Chitto

Opponents: Bogue Chitto and Enterprise-Lincoln

Format: Jamboree matchups, with each team getting two 10-play possessions against the other starting at their own 40-yard line.