St. Aloysius defense faces tough test Friday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 3, 2009

As he assessed his team’s performance last Friday, St. Aloysius coach B.J. Smithhart wasn’t entirely happy with his defense.

There were missed tackles and too much yardage allowed between the 20s. The coverage was good, but the quarterback had too much time to throw. Even though the Flashes won handily, they didn’t deliver the knockout punch when they had several chances to do so. All in all, it wasn’t as strong an effort as the week before in a loss to Pelahatchie.

If that was the case, St. Al might not give up a point when it finally brings its “A” game.

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St. Al allowed 143 total yards and forced three turnovers in a 28-6 win over Tallulah Academy. In its first two games, St. Al (1-1) has given up just 19 points and about 400 yards. Not bad for a group with seven new starters this season.

The Flashes get another tough test this Friday against Greenville-St. Joe, which had 359 rushing yards — and 424 yards of total offense — in a 21-7 win over Madison-St. Joe last week.

“Our pursuit is good. It’s not great, but it’s good. We’ve got 11 guys on the ball each play,” said St. Al linebacker Brendan Beesley. “Speed is speed. That’s all pursuit is We’ve got three guys on each tackle. They’re calling two or three names each time.”

Smithhart felt the defense played better in a 13-6 loss to Pelahatchie on opening night than it did against Tallulah. In the opener, the Flashes did a better job defending runs to the outside and tackling in the open field, Smithhart said. Tallulah was able to get more blockers on the edge and gained most of its rushing yards on sweeps.

“Last week they did a heckuva job because they were flying and we made open-field tackles. This week they were skating,” Smithhart said. “We looked like a totally different defense. We tackled better against Pelahatchie.”

Tallulah coach John Weaver, though, said he called more runs to the outside out of necessity rather than because it was working. St. Al’s defensive line clogged up the inside running lanes and took away the straight-ahead power runs that are Tallulah’s bread and butter.

“It bothered me we couldn’t run a power. When you have to run sweeps, that’s a problem,” Weaver said.

St. Al also showed an ability to bend, but not break, when pressed. Tallulah mounted three drives that lasted four minutes or more, yet scored only once — on a drive that was aided by 38 yards in penalties against St. Al and ended on a 2-yard, fourth-and-goal TD run by Trojans quarterback Jes Shivers.

On its three long drives, Tallulah had the ball for a total of 16 minutes and 17 seconds, gained a total of 122 yards when St. Al’s penalties are subtracted, and scored six points.

Smithhart’s biggest complaint, it seems, was the lack of a knockout punch. Tallulah’s scoring drive started at its own 6-yard line after a mishandled kickoff. Neither Tallulah turnover in the third quarter was converted into points. A play here and there could have turned a comfortable win into a total rout.

“When they got close there late, we kept them out,” Smithhart said. “We need the urgency from the 20 to the 20 like they get inside the red zone. I’m looking for that killer instinct.”

Contact Ernest Bowker at