St. Aloysius sets sights on Mercy Cross for South title

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 13, 2001

[02/09/01] The St. Aloysius Flashes, surprising state semifinalists, will try to take perhaps their toughest step toward a state championship Friday at 4 p.m. when they tangle with Mercy Cross for the Class 1A-2A-3A South State title at Newell Field in Jackson.

The Crusaders enter the game with a 13-1-2 record and on the heels of a 10-0 second-round drubbing of North Forrest, but St. Al coach Shirley Agostinelli said they need to be just as wary of the Flashes.

St. Al (14-1-1), which has a 15-game unbeaten streak, struggled to a 3-1 win over North Pike in the second round on Tuesday, but outshot the Jaguars 41-9 and barely allowed them to cross midfield in the second half.

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“Everybody is saying Mercy Cross is so tough; y’all have got your work cut out.’ They have it cut out for them, too,” Agostinelli said . “They’ve got to play us. We’ve proven ourselves that we’re a pretty dang good team.”

The rest of the Flashes were showing the same kind of confidence at Thursday’s practice, the team’s last one of the year. If or actually, when, to hear them say it St. Al wins Friday, it will face Corinth or defending champion West Lauderdale for the state championship Saturday at 11 a.m. at Pearl High School.

“We’re going to be playing Saturday and we’re going to win on Saturday,” St. Al junior Michael Strickland said.

“We don’t even know if they’re that, we’ve just heard they are,” sophomore sweeper Michael Engle said when asked about the challenge of playing Mercy Cross, a Class 1A Biloxi powerhouse that won the Class 2 state championship in 1999, before the playoffs went to their current 1A-2A-3A format, and finished second last season.

“We’re trying not to really think that much about them, just go out there and play our game the way we’ve been playing through the middle,” Engle added.

Mercy Cross coach Mario Camps said he doesn’t know anything about St. Al, but was expecting a tight game.

“We know we’re playing a good-caliber team,” he said. “I think it’s going to come down to discipline and not making any mistakes. In games like this, whoever makes the first mistake usually loses.”

Agostinelli likes St. Al’s chances in a close game.

“As far as my team is concerned, we’re as tough as anybody. They have come up to the occasion many times. They’ve come from behind in several ballgames and shut down other teams’ offenses,” she said. “I think this team can adjust to any situation. But they have to play 110 percent from the first whistle to the last whistle.”

Win or lose, the Flashes have built a solid foundation for next season. With only one senior, Joey Lyons, the Flashes won the Division 5 championship and two playoff games. Six starters are either freshmen or sophomores.

Strickland said that the opportunity for the Flashes to write their names in the record books isn’t a year or two down the road, it’s only hours away.

“Today they brought us out to the side and gave us the district (championship) trophy and talked about the playoffs and how most people look back on teams in the history book, but we’re the ones making history now,” Strickland said.