St. AL looks ahead to new competition

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, August 4, 2015

St. Aloysius quarterback Will Pierce runs with the football during Monday’s practice at Balzli Field.

St. Aloysius quarterback Will Pierce runs with the football during Monday’s practice at Balzli Field.

Most football teams spend the first week or two of preseason practice focusing on getting themselves into shape and improving their own skills, rather than a specific opponent.

St. Aloysius really doesn’t have a choice.

As they opened preseason practice Monday, the Flashes were still without a revised schedule following their move last week to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools. They’ll know the full slate by the end of the week, and possibly as soon as Tuesday In the meantime, they spent their first official day of practice taking team pictures and conducting a light 90-minute practice at Balzli Field afterward.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“We’re probably just going to work on all of our routine stuff, like defensive formations we’re going to do any way,” junior Brandon Teller said. “We’ll run routes and plays just to get everything down and doing it right. Then when we find out our schedule we can start preparing for other teams.”

Teller will be part of one of the more high-profile position battles leading up to the Aug. 21 season opener. He and Will Pierce are in competition to replace two-time Vicksburg Post Offensive Player of the Year Connor Smith as the team’s starting quarterback.

Pierce took snaps with the first team offense on Monday and Teller with the second team. Teller is also one of the team’s starting receivers when he’s not behind center.

St. Al coach BJ Smithhart said both players will get a chance to show what they can do over the next two weeks, as well as once the season starts.

“They’ll both get equal reps, and we’ll be better for it. I imagine they’ll both take snaps at some point in the year. It’ll work its way out,” Smithhart said.

Other positions seem pretty well set. DeMichael Harris, who set the school’s single-season record for rushing yards and touchdowns last year, is entrenched as the starting tailback. The offensive line is also in good shape despite losing three experienced starters. Guards Josh Price and Bryce Richards, as well as left tackle Ben Brown, all saw significant playing time last season.

Smithhart said a big goal of the preseason period is to build depth as much as settling starting jobs.

“We’re just trying to make sure we’ve got quality two-deep everywhere,” Smithhart said. “We’re hoping some of these guys can take a load off some of the older ones, especially early in the season, so they don’t have to go both ways.”

Although they don’t yet know exactly how the MAIS will shuffle the schedule, St. Al players and coaches said Monday, early indications were the original season opener Aug. 21 with Cathedral would remain in place.

Preparations for that game, whether it’s still Cathedral or another opponent, won’t begin until the week of the opener. Preparations for a bigger game, however, have already started.

St. Al reached the MHSAA Class 1A championship game last season and had designs on making another run at its first Class 1A title. Those were scuttled with the sudden switch to the MAIS, but the goal of playing for a state championship remains the same — no matter what letters are on the trophy.

“It’s kind of bittersweet, because we were looking forward to going to Ole Miss,” Harris said, referring to the site of this year’s MHSAA championship games. “But a state championship is a state championship. So wherever we are, we’ll just try to win it all.”


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.

email author More by Ernest