Flashes open with Bruins

Published 11:26 am Thursday, August 16, 2012

The fortunes of St. Aloysius and Madison-St. Joe have shifted in recent years, as each team has gone from being a playoff contender to an also-ran and then back again.

One thing that hasn’t changed is their rivalry.

When the Flashes and Bruins meet for the 50th time Friday night in the 2012 season opener in Madison, it’ll rekindle a Catholic school rivalry that’s been burning since 1952.

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“I like playing it up, because they’ve played them every year since they were in seventh grade,” St. Al coach B.J. Smithhart said of his current group of seniors. “It’s like the teams in our district. It’s fun. They know a lot of their kids and coaches. When you know somebody, it means a little bit more.”

St. Al and St. Joe will play for pride, bragging rights and the Strauss-Stallings Trophy that goes to the winner. Beyond that, the game is more about starting the season on the right foot and building momentum.

St. Al is coming off a 2011 season in which it won two games. There were only four seniors on the roster, however, so Smithhart is optimistic that the Flashes will be better with a year’s experience under their belt.

“Our sophomores that had to get beat on as freshmen, they understand they had to get faster and stronger. And they did a good job. Now it’s paying off,” Smithhart said. “Now, they’re a little more equipped for it.”

The Flashes’ biggest question marks are at the offensive skill positions. Sophomore Connor Smith will make his first start at quarterback Friday night, and as many as five players will get carries at running back. Smithhart said the running back rotation will continue until one or two players emerge as a clear-cut starter.

Forrest Logue, Barrett Teller and John Austin Jones all had at least 30 carries last season. Logue was the top rusher among the three in 2011, with 268 yards and one touchdown.

“It took a little bit, but everybody’s found their spot and they seem to fill it pretty well,” said Logue, a senior. “I started last year with Carlton (Campbell). We split some carries the second half of the season. So I’m ready for it.”

Now the Flashes just need to be ready for a strong St. Joe team that went 12-2 and reached the Class 2A quarterfinals last season.

Quarterback Peyton Willoughby (2,560 passing yards and 26 touchdowns) graduated, but the Bruins’ top rusher and receiver are both back. Nick Beasley caught 57 passes for 1,163 yards and 12 TDs, while Brett Burgess rushed for 749 yards and eight scores.

William Fetherson, the team’s second-leading rusher with 402 yards and five touchdowns, is also back.

On paper, St. Joe appears to be a heavy favorite — and Smithhart is fine with that.

“We feel like all the pressure is off us. They’re the one everybody’s watching. We’re just coming to try and knock them off,” Smithhart said. “We really want to win this one and set a tone for the year. But all the pressure is on them.”