Flashes brace for Green Wave

Published 12:35 pm Friday, October 15, 2010

On many levels, tonight’s clash between St. Aloysius and Natchez Cathedral is huge.

For starters, the game is the most intense rivalry game of the year for the Flashes. Secondly, the Flashes’ playoff future might ride on the outcome.

St. Al comes into the pivotal Region 4-1A battle at 1-2 in the standings and 3-4 overall. Cathedral (6-1, 3-0) sits in first place, tied with Bogue Chitto. Dexter is third at 3-1 followed by Mount Olive (2-1) in fourth. Sebastopol (1-2) and St. Al are tied for fifth in the seven-team league.

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Four wins are considered to be a must for a team to make the playoffs from Region 4, and the Flashes have just one with four games to play. A loss to the Green Wave and the Flashes’ playoff hopes could be on life support.

To win tonight, St. Aloysius must find a way to slow down top-flight Green Wave quarterback Caleb Upton. In seven games, Upton has thrown for 1,446 yards (70-of-127) and 13 touchdowns.

“I wouldn’t quite say he’s the best when we’ve seen, but it’s close,” St. Al coach B.J. Smithhart said. “The kid from Madison-St. Joe was good and the quarterback from Dexter was really elusive. Caleb is more like the Madison-St. Joe quarterback. There’s no doubt he is throwing the better this year than last.”

This will be Smithhart’s third game in the long-running series between two of Mississippi’s oldest Catholic schools. He has had some early success, winning his first two meetings, including last year’s 10-7 overtime decision in Natchez. It follows in the line of his predecessor, Jim Taylor, who won nine of his 11 meetings against the Green Wave.

This year, though, looks to be a challenge.

“They can score a lot of points and are a well-coached team,” Smithhart said. “Where they have improved is that their younger guys are playing better and they’ve gained confidence.”

The Flashes gained some needed confidence by holding off Salem 7-6 last week. Sophomore linebacker Elliott Bexley had a key goalline stop to deny a two-point conversion. He leads St. Al in tackles with 53.

“We’re going to have to play some real tight defense,” Bexley said.

Bexley got a hand on the key play from safety Shelton Headley. From watching film on Cathedral, he knows how well the Green Wave can move the ball.

“Good ball team. Pretty good passing attack,” Headley said. “They looked pretty good in beating Mount Olive last week. We’re going to have play smart ball.”

Smithhart said the Salem win has been a big boost for his team.

“It did a great deal. To win any 7-6 game is great. It was needed,” Smithhart said.

The Flashes will look to pound the ball with the run much like they’ve done the past two weeks. They are averaging 167.3 yards per game on the ground, led by Carlton Campbell with more than 74 rushing yards per outing.