St. Al ready for rival Cathedral

Published 11:15 am Friday, September 28, 2012

One of Mississippi’s Catholic school rivalries resumes tonight at Balzli Stadium when Cathedral takes on St. Aloysius.

As big as the rivalry is between the teams, the game is important for other reasons. Both teams are two games behind the leaders in Region 4-1A and need a win to stay in the playoff race.

St. Al coach B.J. Smithhart said no extra motivation techniques are needed when Cathedral comes up on the schedule.

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“This one always means a little more for us,” Smithhart said. “Our kids have played them every year since they were in seventh grade.”

The games have traditionally been close. Cathedral won 28-0 last year in Natchez, but six of the seven meetings before that were decided by a touchdown or less.

Cathedral (2-2, 1-2 Region 4-1A) has had to rebuild this season after losing several key pieces from a powerful offense that averaged 43 points per game. Quarterback Caleb Upton had 4,377 passing yards and 53 touchdowns last season, three senior receivers had at least 47 catches apiece, and running back J.D. Ealey ran for 1,431 yards and 23 touchdowns.

All have graduated, but Smithhart said the Green Waves are still formidable. Cathedral opened the season with big wins over Adams Christian and Resurrection. That streak was followed by a 35-14 loss to Stringer and last week’s 14-12 defeat at home to Salem.

“They do a lot of good things on offense,” Smithhart said. “They’ve had some injuries, but they remain a well-coached team and they have one of the better defenses on this side of the state in 1A.”

St. Aloysius (1-4, 1-2), meanwhile, is on an upswing. It played Dexter to the wire two weeks ago before giving up two late touchdowns and losing 16-7. Then, last week, the Flashes rushed for nearly 300 yards and routed Hartfield Academy 33-7.

Prior to the Dexter game, St. Al was outscored 119-24 in its first three games.

“We’ve been able to put eight good quarters together in a row,” Smithhart said. “We’ve gotten better in all areas. It’s just that in the last couple of weeks we’ve played harder. We’ve also got some kids back. Sage (Lewis) came back last week and he obviously helps the middle of our defense. We also get (running back) Forrest Logue back this week.”