Flashes still in playoff hunt, but need win|Prep football

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 23, 2009

The rain was coming down in buckets, the surface of Devereaux Field in Natchez looked like it had just hosted both a monster truck show and tank division exercises and the score was tied at 7 all going into overtime.

Would St. Aloysius succumb to the pressure against archrival Cathedral? The mood on the sideline was not fraught with nerves, but swollen with the confidence of seasoned veterans dealing with nothing new.

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7 p.m. 104.5 FM

St. Al hosts Mount Olive

The Flashes have been there before. Many times. Eight times in B.J. Smithhart’s regime have the Flashes played in a game decided by a touchdown or less. Seven times they’ve emerged victorious.

“I definitely don’t think it hurts,” Smithhart said. “It helps with confidence and it energizes them. It’s definitely nerve-racking.”

So when Pierson Waring marched out for his short field goal try after Luke Burnett’s interception for his first attempt of the season, there was no lack of confidence.

“I had not a doubt in my mind,” quarterback Regan Nosser said of Waring’s ability to deliver.

Now the Flashes (5-3, 2-2 in Region 4-1A) will need to deliver again against Mount Olive if they want to make the playoffs.

The trick will be getting into a close game with the Pirates (4-4, 4-0), which are tied atop the region standings with Sebastapol. In the last two meetings between the clubs, the Flashes have been outscored 98-7.

Offensively, the Pirates have been a one-man show. Quarterback Reuben Duckworth has rushed 141 times for 1,032 yards and has completed 30 of 67 passes for 559 yards for an offense averaging 17 points per contest. In a 21-10 win over Bogue Chitto, Duckworth ran for all three  of the Pirates’ scores.

Offensively, the Flashes are looking for more balance after having to rely solely on the running game in a rain-soaked game at Cathedral. Fullback Brendan Beesley rushed for 80 yards to pace the offense as Nosser had to contend with drops and miserable, wet, windy conditions in a 4 for 15 performance for 28 yards.

“We’ve got to throw it against them,” Smithhart said. “We threw 15 or so balls and completed four or so (against Cathedral). We had to throw just to keep them off-balance. We’re going to have to throw it 15 or 20 times against Mount Olive to keep them off-balance and pinning their ears back.”

Another thing the Flashes need to address is the penalty situation. On consecutive plays, the Green Wave was able to draw the Flashes offsides with hard snap counts.

Another holding penalty backed the Flashes out of Green Wave territory, forcing a third down and long situation. St. Al ended up punting on a night when points were at a premium in miserable conditions.

“The penalties are the biggest thing,” Beesley said. “We’ve had too many penalties this year. We’ve got to work on that. They’re drive-killers.”

For St. Al, the mission is simple. Win or sit home come playoff time. After Mount Olive, the Flashes have West Lincoln, which is winless in region play and region-leading Sebastopol, Dexter and Bogue Chitto already possess tiebreakers by virtue of having beaten the Flashes earlier this season. With four playoff spots, any one loss would likely be a mortal wound to the Flashes’ playoff hopes.