Flashes struggling mightily after two blowout losses

Published 11:59 pm Saturday, August 29, 2015

When the St. Aloysius Flashes were routed in their season opener by Cathedral, it was easy for them to dismiss it as a bad night.

By the time Pisgah was finished shredding them for nearly 500 rushing yards and 52 points on Friday night, it was obvious things had gotten more bleak.

The Flashes, last year’s MHSAA Class 1A runner-up, have given up 83 points in two games. The offense hasn’t gotten into gear yet and might be without its best player for a couple of weeks. They’ve lost consecutive games for the first time since 2012 and the clock is ticking on the search for solutions before the heart of the MAIS and District 3-AAA schedule arrives.

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

“Football is full of life lessons. This is just a low valley. We’ve got to dig our way out of it and go,” St. Al coach BJ Smithhart said. “That’s why you play sports. Everybody wants to be a part of it when you’re winning. Now we’re going to see who’s ready to fix it.”

The biggest immediate concern for St. Al is the health of running back DeMichael Harris. The 2014 Vicksburg Post Co-Offensive Player of the Year had his ankle rolled up on while making a tackle on defense on the second series of the game Friday.

Harris did not return to the game, although he was able to walk out of Balzli Field afterward on his own. It was believed he had a sprained ankle, and his status for this week’s game against Madison-St. Joseph is uncertain.

If Harris can’t play, the Flashes will turn to sophomore Connor Bottin as their lead running back. Bottin rushed for 254 yards and five touchdowns last season, and had 119 yards and a touchdown against Pisgah.

Bottin said last year’s game experience should help him if he has to handle the workload for a couple of weeks while Harris is on the mend.

“I think that helped me, because I knew what to do. With DeMichael being out, it’s going to set us back. But I think we still have a chance,” Bottin said.

Smithhart, however, saw more reasons to be worried than just Harris’ injury.

In the opener against Cathedral, Harris ran for just 28 yards on 15 carries. As a team, the Flashes had 166 yards of total offense through three quarters against Pisgah before padding the stats against the second-string defense. The low output points to bigger problems across the board, Smithhart said.

“The bottom line is, until we get things up front fixed we could have a lot of people run” and not succeed, Smithhart said. “We’ve got to fix the 11, not just one. It helps having DeMichael, but that’s not what lost the game. Collectively, as a unit, we just didn’t look very good.”

That thought extended to St. Al’s defense. It held Pisgah’s T.J. McGinnis, a 2,000-yard rusher last season, to just 30 yards on 11 carries in the first half and then couldn’t stop him in the second. McGinnis had 223 yards on 10 carries in just over a quarter — he left the game after scoring on a 21-yard run on the second play of the fourth quarter — as Pisgah exploded for 39 points in 15 minutes.

As a team, the Dragons gashed St. Al for 468 yards on the ground. Pisgah only threw two passes in the game, both in the first half, and averaged 19.3 yards per play in the second half. The average doesn’t factor in a 96-yard kickoff return touchdown it also had.

“They’re a pretty good team. We just didn’t respond well. We looked beaten when we came out for the second half,” Smithhart said. “They were even trying to run out the clock and they returned a kickoff. They’re not trying to run any plays or do anything, and offensively we just don’t look very good. On anything. We’ve just got to get better.”

The Flashes’ game this week against Madison-St. Joe is essentially an exhibition. The Bruins are an MHSAA opponent, so the outcome won’t count toward St. Al’s power point average that determines wild card berths for the MAIS playoffs.

St. Joe is also 0-2 and has been outscored 83-28 in its first two games.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is, the Flashes are struggling just as much and need not just a win but a strong showing to turn things back in the right direction.

“We were just in disarray all night. It just wasn’t good,” Smithhart said after Friday’s loss. “Collectively, we just don’t look together. We’ve just got to figure it out.”

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