Flashes, Bruins primed for Catholic showdown

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 17, 2008

After a run of seven straight region games to start the season, St. Aloysius finally gets to play a game that doesn’t impact its playoff hopes.

That doesn’t mean it’s getting a break, though.

The Flashes head to Madison tonight for their first — and only — non-region game of the season, against Madison-St. Joe. Although it doesn’t directly affect St. Al’s playoff standing, it is a rivalry game with a fellow Catholic school. St. Joe and St. Al will meet for the 46th time in a series dating back to 1952. St. Joe won last year’s meeting in Vicksburg, 33-7, to claim the Strauss-Stallings Trophy that goes to the winner.

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St. Al will be trying to go 2-0 against Catholic school teams this season, after beating Cathedral 31-28 on Sept. 19. Although St. Al and Cathedral play more often, and are bigger rivals with each other than with St. Joe, St. Al coach B.J. Smithhart said tonight’s game still had a certain edge to it.

“It’s kind of funny. It means a lot because it’s a Catholic rivalry, even if it’s not a district game,” Smithhart said. “It’s probably a little different than Cathedral, because we play Cathedral in every sport and they’re a district rival. This one still means a lot. If Cathedral is 1A, this one is probably 1B.”

St. Al could probably use a break to shore up an offense that has sputtered a bit in recent weeks. It has turned the ball over six times in its last two games and scored 44 points in its last three, after a run of three straight games over 30 points. In last week’s 21-13 win at Pisgah, the Flashes committed four turnovers and picked up one first down on its first three drives of the second half.

Now, they must also deal with the loss of tailback Ryno Martin-Nez, the team’s leader in rushing and receiving yards. Martin-Nez broke his thumb while making a tackle against Pisgah. Justin Hosemann, who ran for 511 yards last season, and Brendan Beesley will replace Martin-Nez at tailback.

Smithhart said the offensive slump was mostly due to a loss of intensity, and wasn’t overly concerned about a bigger problem.

“A penalty here and there, a turnover here and there. Missed assignments. Little things that’ll stall a drive out. Nobody stopped us more than we stopped ourselves. You’re never going to play a perfect game, but we can get better,” Smithhart said. “Every practice we work on individual drills and go over that. It’s not a lack of focus. The focus is there. It’s just not being intense enough.”

Smithhart added that St. Al’s defense has picked up the slack for the offense. St. Al held Pisgah to one offensive touchdown, and Pelahatchie to 16 points. No. 4 Puckett scored four touchdowns on four first-half drives two weeks ago, but just one in the second half.

“We can get better and we’re going to work to do that” on offense, Smithhart said. “The defense has gotten better, though. As a team, we might have a better team as a whole right now than we did early in the year.”


Contact Ernest Bowker at ebowker@vicksburgpost.com.