Flashes carving identity with toughness

Published 12:03 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The first three weeks of the season have been a little uneven for St. Aloysius.

There have been battles with inexperience, penalties and offensive struggles. Somehow, though, the Flashes are finding ways to win and carving out an identity as a tough, physical football team. Friday night’s 12-7 victory over Greenville-St. Joe improved their record to 2-1, ensuring they’ll be no worse than .500 when region play starts on Sept. 24.

It’s all coming together for a team that seemed headed into a rebuilding phase when the year started.

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“We just found a way to win,” said linebacker Mac Jones, who had two interceptions, a sack and scored two touchdowns against Greenville-St. Joe. “We’ve got a bunch of new guys. We played real big (against Tallulah Academy), but we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We showed we have what it takes to be a good team.”

St. Al lost its opener 14-0 to a solid Pelahatchie squad, then dispatched Tallulah Academy 30-0 behind a powerful running game. The offense then slipped a bit against St. Joe. Carlton Campbell ran for 78 yards and Jones had 40 yards and a touchdown, but the Flashes managed only 92 total yards. A pair of fumbles that resulted in long losses killed drives and pushed the offensive output down. St. Al attempted just three passes in the game.

Even so, the Flashes made an impression on St. Joe coach John Baker. He praised St. Al’s offensive line for the way it wore down his young team.

“Their offensive line is one of the best in single-A. They had one of the best lines last year, too,” Baker said.

Most of those same offensive lineman also play on the defensive line and controlled the game. St. Joe gained 189 yards on Friday night and was stonewalled on three of four trips inside the red zone.

St. Al made two goal line stands in the fourth quarter and the defense scored the winning touchdown on Jones’ 64-yard interception return early in the third.

Altogether, the Flashes intercepted three passes and forced two fumbles that St. Joe was able to recover.

“That’s the ballgame. Our offense put them in that situation and the defense bailed us out,” St. Al coach B.J. Smithhart said.

Now the Flashes will turn their attention to a different St. Joe — Madison-St. Joe, another Catholic school rival. The teams play in Madison this Friday night. With a win, the Flashes can head into their open date with a 3-1 record, a ton of confidence and bragging rights over two of their biggest rivals.

“We’ve been playing football for over 100 years and these are our biggest rivals. So they mean a lot to us,” Smithhart said. “We got one win, and hopefully we can beat another one next week.”