Flashes face crucial region game

Published 12:12 pm Thursday, October 16, 2014

 St. Aloysius has spent the past five weeks weeding through the chaff of Region 2-1A and establishing itself as a championship contender.

That was the easy part.

St. Al (7-1, 5-0 Region 2-1A) hosts Shaw (5-2, 4-0) on Friday night in a matchup of the top two teams in Region 2-1A. It’s the first of three games to end the regular season for the Flashes against opponents in the upper half of the region standings.

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“This is the home stretch,” St. Al coach BJ Smithhart said. “The good news is, you don’t look ahead because you’re playing a team that’s undefeated in the district. We’re all focused on Shaw. They’re the best team we’ve played.”

St. Al can clinch a playoff berth with a victory, and likely won’t win the region title without one. Head-to-head results are the first tiebreaker, so Friday’s game will essentially count for two in the standings.

Even with a win, however, the Flashes will still have work to do. They have a bye next week, then finish the regular season at Montgomery County (4-4, 3-2) and at home against Greenville-St. Joe (5-2, 3-1).

“It’s a pretty big game,” said St. Al lineman Josh Price, who has 29 tackles and three sacks this season. “It’s the district championship right here.”

St. Al is coming into Friday’s game off a fairly lackluster performance against Ray Brooks. The Flashes took a 21-0 lead by halftime and finished with 270 rushing yards, but still muddled through the second half and wound up winning 28-8.

While he wasn’t happy with some aspects of the game, Smithhart said he was pleased with what his team took away from it.

“We had one of those gutty games where it seems like not everything went right. We needed one of those,” he said. “That was good to see that these teams are going to fight us. We needed that going into Shaw. Hopefully, that gets us sparked.”

The Flashes might need a little extra zip this week.

St. Al is averaging 274.9 rushing yards per game as a team and has scored 33 touchdowns on the ground, but Shaw has one of stingiest defenses in Region 2-1A.

Since giving up more than 30 points in each of their first two games, the Hawks have allowed a total of 28 during a five-game winning streak. They shut out Ray Brooks 26-0 in their last game on Oct. 3.

On offense, Shaw is well-balanced. Five players have at least 100 rushing yards apiece, while quarterbacks Jermarquis Stimmage and Travelle Ware have combined to throw for 776 yards and six touchdowns.

Stimmage is the team’s leading rusher, with 302 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also thrown a TD pass in each of Shaw’s last three games.

“They try to pound you, control the ball and play great defense, but then they have some speedy receivers that can get by you. They try to lull you to sleep,” Smithhart said. “We can’t let them get in a rhythm.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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