St. Al rolling into region play
Published 11:14 am Thursday, September 11, 2014
It’s been a busy week at St. Aloysius.
The Flashes have been looking for extra room in their trophy case after beating rival Madison-St. Joe for the first time since 2009, and are now turning their attention to Friday’s Region 2-1A opener against McAdams. Coach BJ Smithhart has seen his team skyrocket into a fast-starting juggernaut that has controlled all three phases of the game in its last two outings.
Since losing the first game of the season to Cathedral — the No. 1 team in Class 1A in this week’s Associated Press state poll — and then falling behind 14-0 to Pisgah in the first quarter, St. Al has outscored opponents 66-7 en route to two commanding wins the past two weeks.
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“I think the team’s just getting better every week. We continue to score on big plays and defense is getting better every week,” Smithhart said. “We’re sitting pretty good going into district play and now we just want to keep building on those things we’ve done well and clean up what we haven’t done well. Now we’re playing for keeps.”
With St. Aloysius playing in a nine-team district, every win is critical to its playoff aspirations, and a rising McAdams team should give a tougher than expected test.
The Bulldogs are off to a 3-0 start, matching their win total from the previous three years combined.
Smithhart knows his team will have to play a complete football game to snag a win.
“We’ve got to win these games if we want to be playing in November. The kids know that. I don’t think there’s any added pressure or anything, it’s just a district game,” Smithhart said. “Luckily we’ve got an experienced team and a bunch of guys that have started for a number of years. The younger guys can kind of feed off them.”
Maybe the biggest of those experienced playmakers is quarterback Connor Smith, who ran for a 94-yard touchdown and threw two two more in the rout of Madison-St. Joe. The senior’s sharp play, leadership and poise has paved the way for the Flashes’ hot start.
“It all starts with the quarterback. Connor has gotten better every year and now he’s getting better every game,” Smithhart said. “He’s really good. When you have a guy at quarterback that can do those type things, it really helps everybody to feed off of that.”
With Smith playing lights out and St. Al dominating opponents on both sides of the trenches, Smithhart believes McAdams will try to get the ball to its playmakers in space instead of testing his squad up the middle.
“I don’t know if we’ll have many teams try to really play tackle to tackle with us just because (we’re so big). Not that somebody won’t, but I think teams’ biggest strengths would be speed,” he said. “A lot of times that equates to running the ball outside and throwing more outs, kind of staying away from your traditional three yards and a cloud of dust.”
If St. Aloysius continues its stretch of dominance this Friday, it would be a fantastic start in the Flashes’ quest to make a repeat run to the North State championship game in 2014.
“We feel like we can move the ball on them. Just like anything, don’t turn it over and hopefully have another quick start,” Smithhart said. “That really takes it out of a team when you get behind early. That’s the goal.”