Flashes must shake off rust to beat Saints|[9/9/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 9, 2005

In a season-opening loss to Cathedral, St. Aloysius was victimized by a series of big plays and mental mistakes.

Having only four practices in the two weeks since hardly seems like the best way to fix the mistakes. And St. Andrew’s, a solid team with plenty of big-play potential, seems like exactly the wrong opponent at the wrong time for the Flashes.

St. Al returns to the field tonight after a two-week layoff because of Hurricane Katrina. The Flashes have had just four practices in that time, including one last week that was attended by only half the team.

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The time off has helped heal some injuries, St. Al coach Jim Taylor said, but that has been about the only benefit.

“There were a couple of guys with injuries it helped out, but I’m sure our conditioning isn’t the best it’s been,” Taylor said. “Taking the week off, with only one practice, can’t do anything but hurt you.”

After St. Al’s showing against Cathedral, however, there’s nowhere to go but up.

The Flashes fumbled nine times in a 29-12 loss, losing three. They allowed nine plays of 10 yards or more, surrendered 164 rushing yards, and watched as Cathedral scored on a 73-yard punt return, an 83-yard interception return, and a 25-yard run.

St. Al was also plagued by mental mistakes, with players often running on or off the field late and committing silly penalties. Among the 11 flags thrown on the Flashes were one illegal forward pass, one intentional grounding, two substitution infractions, and one illegal kick for punting without a shoe.

The Flashes were also called for a face mask on a key third-down play late in the first half. The penalty gave Cathedral a first-and-goal at the St. Al 6, and the Green Wave scored on the next play to take a 15-6 lead.

Still, Taylor was encouraged by facing an opponent he said St. Al has matched up well with in the past.

“I think we’re going to play well with St. Andrew’s. There’s no reason we shouldn’t,” Taylor said. “We’ve always played well with them. They beat us by three or so touchdowns last year, but it was a good game.”

St. Andrew’s could probably offer up two reasons why this year’s contest might be different – Bradford Blackmon and Conway Craig.

Blackmon, a junior running back who ran for 1,846 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, started the 2005 campaign by running for one score and catching a long touchdown pass in a 40-28 victory over Yazoo County two weeks ago.

“He’s good. We had trouble with him last year,” Taylor said. “I think he’s bigger and stronger than last year. He’ll bounce it outside on you and be gone.”

Craig, the Saints’ quarterback, threw two touchdown passes – including the 81-yarder to Blackmon – against Yazoo County and ran for two more. He also kicked the extra point after the Saints’ last touchdown.

Last season, Craig threw for 1,528 yards and 15 touchdowns, and Taylor said he’s as big a threat as Blackmon.

“He runs the ball, throws the ball well,” Taylor said. “But the overall aggressiveness of their team is what impresses me.”