Flashes return home in search of a win

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2003

St. Aloysius assistant coach Jimmy Salmon stares down lineman Justin Liddell during an offensive line drill at practice on Wednesday. The Flashes return home from a three-game road trip in search of their first win since the opener on Aug. 29. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

[9/26/03]If there is such a thing as a good loss, the St. Aloysius Flashes may have experienced it last week.

St. Al lost its third straight game, 28-27 against Stringer, on a late touchdown. But the Flashes found some of the offensive punch they had been lacking through the early part of the season and, more importantly, their fire.

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“Last week, I thought we came out and played with a lot of intensity,” said St. Al senior Anthony Rector, a wide receiver and defensive back. “We know we played hard enough to win. We feel a whole lot better about ourselves coming into this week.”

That should help when Region 4-1A rival Bogue Chitto comes to town tonight. The Bobcats (2-2, 1-1) have lost two straight and need a win to keep pace in the race for the region’s fourth and final playoff spot.

Although it’s still early, Cathedral, Mize and Mount Olive have all jumped out to 2-0 starts in region play, and four other teams are bunched together at 1-1. St. Al, Dexter, and West Lincoln are all 0-2, making this a big game for both teams.

“It’s a real big game,” Bogue Chitto coach Gareth Sartin said. “It’s very important for us to stay in the playoff hunt with a victory.”

St. Al coach Jim Taylor downplayed the game’s importance for his team’s playoff chances, saying the Flashes (1-3) need to concentrate more on simply improving.

After beating Greenville-St. Joe in the season-opener, St. Al lost its next two games by a combined score of 72-24. Its run defense has been shredded in each of the last three games Stringer’s Tipston Garner carried 30 times for 255 yards and three touchdowns last week and the offense has sputtered at times.

“We play nine division games. We knew going into region play that it was pretty well balanced up,” Taylor said. “Everybody else is bunched up, so I don’t think anything is in stone yet … We’re more concerned with what we’re doing and how we’re improving.”

Improving its run defense will be critical for St. Al this week. The Flashes’ last three opponents St. Andrew’s, Mount Olive, and Stringer have all rushed for more than 200 yards, and Bogue Chitto boasts a balanced running game.

Running back Rico Lewis leads the team with 240 yards and two TDs, but freshman Antonio Barnes has rushed for 150 yards and senior quarterback Michael Blackwell has 180 yards and two TDs on the ground. Blackwell has also thrown for 230 yards and four touchdowns.

“They’ve got good people at the skill positions,” Taylor said. “We’re going to mix our defenses up and do a few things different, and basically defense the formations.”

Bogue Chitto’s running game isn’t its only strength, however. The Bobcats also have a stout defense that is surrendering just 13.3 points per game, tops in the region. Nearly half of the 53 points they’ve allowed came in a 24-8 loss to Mize last week.

“Our defense is our strength,” Sartin said. “We’ve played pretty well. We’re making a few mistakes, but we’re improving.”

Just like St. Al. After two ugly games and one winnable one, the Flashes feel they’re finally ready to break out and end the slide. They had a shot against Stringer, but a fumble at the 5-yard line in the final minute ended their chances.

This week, they’re hoping to get those final few yards and get a huge confidence boost along the way.

“We’re not doing bad things, we’re just not winning,” Taylor said. “Winning cures all your ills in football, and when it’s going bad it’s going bad. A win would be great.”