St. Al’s Strickland back for rejuvenated Richland

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 12, 2000

What looked like a break in the schedule before the season could be one of the toughest games of the year for St. Aloysius.

The Flashes (3-4), coming off a 36-7 loss to division rival Puckett, travel to face Richland Friday night, a team that was 0-10 last season but has jumped out to a 6-1 start and a share of the Division 6-2A lead this season.

“We really didn’t expect it to be that way,” St. Al coach Jim Taylor said. “For comparison, we lost to Wesson and they beat them 40-14. It’s a tough game for us.”

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The Flashes will get a boost with the return of leading rusher Michael Strickland (408 yards, five touchdowns), but one of their best all-around players, Clay Simmons, will be limited because of a concussion suffered last week.

Strickland missed the Puckett game with a shoulder injury.

“He’s cleared to play, but he’ll probably be used somewhat limited,” Taylor said of Simmons, who has returned three punts for touchdowns this season. “He’s one of our top defensive and offensive players, so certainly there’s an effect. But the other kids have stepped up, and he’s going to play.”

Although St. Al was beaten soundly last week, Taylor said the injuries were the Flashes’ biggest problem.

“We didn’t play that bad, we just had breakdowns on particular plays,” he said. “We need to bounce back for sure. We’ve got three tough games and we’ve just got to take them one game at a time.”

Richland coach Douglas Holder credited the experience gained last season, along with a good offseason in the weight room and on the track, for his team’s turnaround.

“A lot of guys pack it in when you have a season like we had, but these guys got better every week,” Holder said. “Coming into the season, we thought we were going to be a whole lot better, but we’ve exceeded what we thought.”

Taylor said he doesn’t know much about Richland, but expects the Rangers’ size to give his team problems. A massive offensive line has allowed four different running backs to produce for Richland. Freshman tailback Timmy Sanders leads the team with 490 yards and six touchdowns.

“We’ve got a fairly decent-sized offensive line,” Holder said. “We average about 235 or 240, and that includes my 185-pound center.”