Roots of Flashes’ title run were laid long ago
Published 10:32 am Thursday, December 4, 2014
I came to work at The Vicksburg Post in July 1998, at the ripe old age of 21. I’ve been following sports in this town ever since — literally my entire adult working life — and have been fortunate to see some great high school teams pass through.
We’ve had baseball champions at Warren Central, Porters Chapel and St. Aloysius.
Vicksburg High won a state title in basketball and played for two more, and PCA even rose from obscurity to snag one.
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Even our “minor” sports have been pretty dang good. Our local schools have produced championship players and teams in swimming, golf, tennis, powerlifting and almost every other sport the MHSAA and MAIS offer.
If you look over that list, though, you’ll notice one conspicuous absence — football. For whatever reason, not only have the last 20 years not produced a champion, they haven’t produced a championship appearance.
It hasn’t been for lack of talent. Vicksburg High made it to the North State title game in 2001 before losing to Starkville. Porters Chapel made it to the semifinals a few times but never got over the hump. Warren Central has had some great players and teams, but none able to recapture the glory of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
And then we got the 2014 St. Aloysius Flashes. The program that was a perennial afterthought, that hadn’t won 10 games in a season since 1982, went and ripped off 13 wins in a row to reach the Class 1A title game against Cathedral and break Warren County’s drought.
Looking back, it’s not hard to see how and why this group of Flashes turned out to be so special.
In 2011 and 2012, when they won a combined total of five games, a group of talented young players started to find their way into the lineup. They took a lot of lumps, but didn’t wilt. They had the drive to improve, and did.
Quarterback Connor Smith went from throwing lollipop passes as a sophomore to laser beams as a junior. Offensive linemen Bash Brown, Drake Dorbeck and Jacob Kitchens, who are all as smart as they are big, merged brains and brawn to create the most formidable group of road graders in Class 1A. Our Offensive Player of the Year Award has traditionally gone to one skill player, but there’s part of me that’s considering voting for St. Al’s line as a unit.
Other players, like running back DeMichael Harris, receiver Brandon Teller and linebacker Casey Landers, all stepped into different roles and excelled.
Most amazingly, all of these parts have meshed into a perfectly-oiled football machine. All of them do their job and root for each other. They all seem to get along. There’s no egos on this team, just 34 guys seeing an opportunity and doing their job to seize it. That’s what it really takes to become a championship team, and these Flashes have it in spades.
Whether they win or lose on Friday, the 2014 St. Aloysius Flashes deserve a round of applause. Not just for breaking a long championship game drought for Warren County’s football teams, but for how they got there — the old-fashioned way, with hard work and grit, as well as raw ability.
Ernest Bowker is a sports writer. He can be reached at 601-619-7120, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.