St. Al has big hopes for 2011

Published 11:55 am Friday, November 12, 2010

All season, St. Aloysius battled growing pains. While the youth may have cost the team a Class 1A playoff berth in 2010, there was no question the Flashes got better as the year progressed and that bodes well for next year.

The Flashes finished 5-6 overall and 3-4 in Region 4-1A, missing the playoffs by one game.

St. Al will return a core of 18 experienced underclassmen. With injuries to three seniors, all saw significant time in starting and reserve roles. The Flashes finished the year with just four healthy seniors — Matt Wooten, Mac Jones, Ford Biedenharn and Shelton Headley. All four had standout seasons. Wooten, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound, two-way starter at offensive tackle and nose guard, was named the Region 4-1A Lineman of the Year.

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Jones, a senior linebacker and fullback, was a first-team all region pick — as was Biedenharn, who started at quarterback and safety. Headley, while not an all-region selection, was a solid player in the secondary and led the team with 16 catches for 140 yards.

Flashes coach B.J. Smithhart, who finished his third season at the school, said a foundation has been laid for a better season next year.

“Of the 29 players we dressed, only four were seniors,” Smithhart said. “We lose one lineman, Matt Wooten. So we’ve got to find another lineman and replacing Matt will be tough. Considering we’ll move up another eight or nine guys who we didn’t bring up at the end of this year, we feel we’ll have 32 or 33 players for next year. We’ll definitely be in good shape there with numbers and most will have had a lot of experience, which is important.”

St. Al’s strength was its line play and Wooten said it will only get better with four starters returning.

“The guys really improved their quickness and footwork as the season went along,” Wooten said. “They are going to be able to step up big next year.”

As to who will lead that charge, Wooten offered a ready answer.

“Robert Arledge,” Wooten answered. “He was our starting center and he did an excellent job. The guy gets so excited, we have to rein him in sometimes. He definitely comes ready to play and he already can bench more than me at 300 pounds.”

Sophomore guard Sage Lewis, who joined Arledge and Scott Johnston on the all-region team, is another player with a bright future.

“Sage has a load of potential,” Wooten said.

The offense will have playmakers back, as well. Junior Carlton Campbell was the team’s leading rusher with 684 yards and he’ll return as the featured back. Freshman Carlisle Koestler alternated possessions with Biedenharn at quarterback and emerged as the team’s passing threat. Smiithhart hopes to see more progression from his young quarterback this offseason.

“We need Carlisle to get bigger,” Smithhart said. “We feel his skills will improve as he goes to the different camps.”

One thing that could change is the 2011 schedule. A number of schools will be on the move when the MHSAA announces its reclassification plan in December.

“I’ve heard a lot of things,” Smithhart said. “The Leake County schools may consolidate. I’ve heard Hinds AHS is dropping to 1A. Thomastown may consolidate. If any of those things happen, it will affect the 1A numbers. Because we’re close to the Delta, we could move North.”