No love lost in St. Al-Cathedral series

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 7, 2003

St. Aloysius wide receiver Austin Golding heads upfield after catching a pass in front of Enterprise-Lincoln defenders. The Flashes travel to archrival Cathedral in the season finale tonight at 7:30 p.m. (Jenny SevcikThe Vicksburg Post)

[11/7/03]For two years, the numbers have hung over St. Aloysius and Cathedral like a cloud.

Banners reading “51-7”, chants at baseball and basketball games, and general trash-talking have served as constant reminders of the moment when St. Al ran up the score on its archrival.

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Tonight, Cathedral (7-2, 6-2 Region 4-1A) will have its best chance at revenge since that infamous 2001 game when it hosts the Flashes (5-5, 4-4) in Natchez. The Green Wave are already in the playoffs, but need a win to improve their seeding. The Flashes would like to keep them as low in the playoff pecking order as possible.

“We can remind them of last year, when we put them out of the playoffs,” said St. Al running back Rob Jones, who leads Warren County with 1,070 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. “We’re out and they’re in, but we’d like to send them out on a loss.”

The St. Al-Cathedral rivalry stretches well back into the last century. Each team has taken its turns at dominating the series St. Al has won the last five meetings and is for bragging rights among the state’s four Catholic high schools.

Over the years, the series has pit Catholic versus Catholic and even family member versus family member. St. Al assistant coach Gene Rogillio, himself a 1955 Cathedral graduate, has had two children graduate from St. Al and two more from Cathedral.

“I have double loyalties, in one sense,” Rogillio said. “I like to see (Cathedral) win a ballgame just not when they play us.”

Rogillio also has heard the razzing from the Cathedral faithful. He helped the Green Wave beat St. Al several times when he played for Natchez in the 1950s, but has been at the Vicksburg school since 1979.

He said a lot of times, fans from both schools take the game more seriously than the players do.

“Having been on both sides of the fence, I don’t think the kids hate each other. I really don’t. I think most of the kids see it as a good, hard-fought, tough football game,” said Rogillio, who also coaches fast-pitch softball at St. Al. “Sometimes I think the parents put way more into this game than what it is. Yeah, we want to win. But to sit in the stands and to listen, you think if you had your option we’d just fall out and shoot at one another.”

Although there have been plenty of heated moments in the series, the ending of St. Al’s blowout win two years ago has provided the most recent dose of venom between the schools.

With the Flashes holding a 44-7 lead and the ball inside the Cathedral 10-yard line in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, their young backups called a timeout. They ran another play and scored, giving St. Al a 51-7 win.

“Playing Cathedral had nothing to do with it,” said Jones, one of the backups who called timeout. “We were just young and wanted to score. The second string hadn’t scored all year, and we were close.”

What might have drawn angry words in any other game incurred the wrath of higher powers in the Catholic school rivalry. St. Al coach Jim Taylor said the Flashes’ coaching staff was reprimanded, even though the players called the timeout on their own.

“We didn’t mean to do that. I don’t think it’ll happen again, because we all got reprimanded by the sisters for running up the score,” Taylor said. “For me it didn’t mean anything. I’m sure it’s bulletin board material for (Cathedral). I’m sure it’s in the back of their minds if they can wax us a little bit.”

Besides bragging rights and knocking Cathedral down a peg, there are other reasons for the Flashes to look forward to this game.

A victory in the season finale can give St. Al a winning record a remarkable accomplishment after a 1-4 start and a string of injuries that has left them with fewer than 25 healthy players.

“We always get fired up for this game,” St. Al quarterback Drew Mazzanti said. “We win this game and we have a winning record for the season, and that’s one of our goals.”