Minus stars, Flashes focus on fundamentals

Published 10:32 am Thursday, May 14, 2015

St. Aloysius players practice Wednesday at Balzli Field. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

St. Aloysius players practice Wednesday at Balzli Field. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Coming off the program’s best season in 30 years, St. Aloysius coach BJ Smithhart decided to go back to basics and keep things simple this spring.

He really didn’t have a choice.

Most of his top players didn’t hit the practice field until this week because of their involvement with other sports. That left a group of mostly younger players on the football field, and Smithhart said it just made sense to focus on some core plays rather than do anything fancy.

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“It’s very basic. We try to make sure we get all our basic formations in,” Smithhart said. “There’s a lot of guys coming up from the junior high, we have ninth graders on the high school team, so you want them to know your basic formations, your basic alignments and splits.”

St. Al’s key players were divided across the sports spectrum this spring.

Lineman Josh Price and running back DeMichael Harris were busy winning the school’s first Class 1A track championship. Quarterback Will Pierce and receiver Lane Hynum were playing baseball, and quarterback Brandon Teller was on the golf course.

Monday’s practice was the first time the entire team was together, and they’ll only have had four workouts before Friday night’s spring game at Bogue Chitto.

“It’s been a little slow this spring, just because of so many sports doing so well,” Smithhart said. “Track participation was way up, and they went all the way through to the end. That’s a lot of our key players. Baseball did well as always. So it’s been a little bit slower.”

As they prepare to wrap up spring practice and head into the summer conditioning program, there are plenty of questions for the Flashes to answer.

The first is at quarterback, where Smithhart will have to find a replacement for three-year starter Connor Smith.

Teller and Pierce are both in the running, Smithhart said. Teller will be a junior but has played wide receiver the last two seasons. Pierce is heading into his senior season, but hasn’t played football since he was a freshman.

Despite their inexperience at quarterback, Smithhart said their age and maturity will be an asset.

“Now we’re not starting a sophomore,” Smithhart said. “We had to do that two years in a row and it seems like we never got over the hump until Connor solidified it and started for three years. Now we’re either going to start a senior or a junior. It keeps that cycle going. You want an older guy.”

Smithhart added that both will get some snaps in the spring game. They’ll also both see playing time next season, even if it’s not at quarterback.

“They’re both really talented. They’ll both get snaps this spring, and it’s not like if one beats the other one out the other one won’t have a place. They’re both big parts of our team,” Smithhart said.

Another area of concern is on the line. The Flashes lost four-year starters Bash Brown and Drake Dorbeck, and three-year starter Jacob Kitchens to graduation. Dorbeck signed with Southern Miss and Brown was accepted to West Point.

Three linemen — Josh Price, Bryce Richards and Ben Brown — do return, as does tight end Garrett Breithaupt. That gave Smithhart confidence that one of his best position groups won’t have much of a dropoff as the Flashes try to get back to the Class 1A championship game for the second straight year.

“We really had six starters last year. Two of them we rotated, with Josh and Bryce, and now they’ll both be guards. They both had a lot of quality snaps,” Smithhart said. “We won’t be as big or as dominant, but we’ll still be pretty solid up there. That’s one of those groups that the more they work together the better they’ll get as a whole.”

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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