Strickland returning to bolster St. Al backfield

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 9, 2001

[10/05/01]Salem’s 0-4 record isn’t any reason to relax, St. Aloysius coach Jim Taylor said.

“They’ve played everyone close until the third quarter or so, and they’ve played strong teams,” Taylor said of the Wildcats, who visit St. Al tonight. “They’ve got good-size players. We won’t be bigger than anybody … we just have to outplay them, regardless of their record.”

The Flashes (4-1, 2-1 Region 4-1A), in the second of a four-game homestand, will try to bounce back from their 30-0 loss to Bogue Chitto. The Wildcats, who lost to Enterprise 56-20 last week, will be trying for their first win since Oct. 12, 2000.

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“We just can’t stop nobody,” Salem coach Kenneth Murphy said. “Maybe for a quarter or a half, but not for four quarters.”

The Flashes’ running game, which had been virtually unstoppable until last week, should be even stronger this week.

Michael Strickland, who led the team in rushing last year, will see his first action on offense this year after a preseason groin injury. Fullback Justin Williams has emerged as the top rusher in Warren County (76 carries, 539 yards, 5 touchdowns) after churning out 95 yards last week and backup tailback Michael Head is fifth.

Taylor said Strickland still isn’t 100 percent, but he can be used to spell Williams when the Flashes are in formations that allow him to run “straight ahead,” without having to make many cuts.

“We’ll use Strickland at fullback some when we’re in the Wing-T and at tailback when we’re in the I (formation),” Taylor said.

Rodney Bridges leads the Wildcats’ running game. The 5-foot-7, 145-pounder had 157 yards on 24 carries last week.

“We rely on him too much, but we don’t have anyone else,” Murphy said.

The Wildcats use two quarterbacks sophomore Jordan Hill and senior Chris Montgomery, who is also a fullback. Twin receivers Josh and Jason Holmes (5-7, 135) have seen plenty of action while the Wildcats played catch-up.

Linebacker Aaron Waldrup and Bridges lead the Salem defense.

Murphy said he was impressed with St. Al’s offensive line.

“They took it straight down Bogue Chitto’s throat, and they’re a good team,” Murphy said. “Their offensive line gets on the right people.”

That line will be without John Parks (knee) for at least one more game. He was cleared to practice next week, Taylor said.

“We’re not going to get fancy,” Taylor said. “We’re just going to do what we do. We’ve got four must-games and this is one of them.”

Murphy expects the Flashes to be fired up. With Mize and Dexter ranked in The Associated Press Top 10 small schools and Bogue Chitto beating St. Al, the fight for fourth place and the final playoff spot will be fierce, Murphy said.

“People don’t realize how tough our region is,” Murphy said.

The Wildcats have also lost region games to defending state champion Mize and Dexter.

“They’re one of the teams that doesn’t look to be in the (playoff) mix,” Taylor said. “A loss to them would do us in.”