Simmons, St. Al beat Wave again

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 25, 2000

Walker Hengst carries for a short gain while dragging Cathedral defender Mark Steckler. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

Clay Simmons came up with two big touchdowns in the first half and St. Aloysius’ defense took care of things in the second half as the Flashes won their third straight over Cathedral, 15-8.

“We expected a tough, muddy game and that’s what we got,” said St. Al coach Jim Taylor, who improved to 3-0 against the Flashes’ biggest rivals. “Our world’s a little better balanced now.”

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The Flashes (2-3) won their second straight at home after starting the season 0-3. And they did it with the centerpiece of their offense on the bench in the second half.

With leading rusher Michael Strickland nursing a shoulder injury, Walker Hengst and Simmons kept the Flashes’ ground game going in the second half. They combined for 129 yards on 28 carries and both converted on big fourth-down plays on St. Al’s last two possessions.

Defensive back Michael Mazzanti kept Cathedral’s passing game in check. He had an interception, two pass breakups and hit Cathedral workhorse Ja’Mel Jackson inches in front of the first-down marker to stop the final drive for the Green Wave (0-4).

“We’re always fired up against Cathedral,” Mazzanti said. “We expected them to throw more. Our coaches had us prepared, so I was just in the right position.”

Cathedral coach Ken Beesley said he intended to throw more.

“We were hoping it wouldn’t rain,” said Beesely, who had won 14 of 15 over St. Al before 1998. “We played too hard to not win.”

Jackson carried the ball 26 times for 123 yards, but was hampered by an ankle injury he suffered near the end of the first half.

“He’s the type of back you need on a wet field,” Taylor said of Jackson, who dragged defenders for short gains every time he touched the ball. “The (conditions) probably favored them. They were physical. They came right at us.”

Simmons, who returned two first-quarter punts for touchdowns last week, scored on one again Friday with a 48-yarder.

He bounced back from a bone-crushing hit, pulled out of the grasp of the another defender and raced up the sideline untouched.

“That was the worst hit I’ve got all year,” Simmons said, adding, “I’m surprised I didn’t run the wrong way.”

Two series later, with the Wave threatening to add to an 8-7 lead, Simmons recovered a fumble on the Cathedral 8-yard line. Eleven plays after that, the senior scrambled up the middle 38 yards for the go-ahead score. Strickland rammed in the two-pointer, his final run of the night, with 2:20 left in the half to cap the scoring.

“It was scary at first without him in there,” Simmons said. “He’s a big key to our offense. This is our biggest win in a long time.”

Punter Aaron George and the defense kept Cathedral at bay in the second half. George stuffed the Wave inside the 20 twice and inside the 5 once. Vincent Banchetti came up with a big fourth-down stop against Jackson at midfield in the fourth.

“We’re having good luck now,” said Taylor, whose team plays its division opener at Madison-St. Joe Friday. “We haven’t lost a game at home or to Cathedral.”