St. Al, Central Hinds meet in likely elimination game

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, October 14, 2015

At 6:59 p.m. Friday, both St. Aloysius and Central Hinds will still be alive for the District 3-AAA championship or a berth in the MAIS Class AAA playoffs.

By 10 p.m., one of them probably won’t be.

St. Al (2-6, 2-0) can win the district by winning its last two games, and Central Hinds (4-3, 1-1) can possibly earn a share of a three-way tie. Both teams are also vying for one of the last wild card spots in the Class AAA bracket, so Friday’s game in Raymond is for the highest possible stakes.

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Win, and the dream stays alive another week. Lose, and all they can do is hope for a miracle. It’s basically a playoff game, and coaches from both teams said they’re treating it like one.

“I think so. I don’t know how the three-way tie works, but we have to treat it as such. We have two games left and we have to win this one,” St. Al coach BJ Smithhart said. “It’s a goal at the beginning of the year to win district, and to win district you have to win this game and not worry about a tiebreaker, and just leave it as a one-game deal.”

Although it has the worse record of the two, St. Al actually has a clearer path to the district title and a better chance — at least right now — of earning a wild card berth.

The Flashes’ two wins have both been against district opponents, and their last two games are against district opponents Central Hinds and Riverfield. That means they control their destiny for the district title. Win the last two games, and they take it.

The Flashes have also played a more difficult schedule than Central Hinds and have a slight edge in the MAIS power point rankings that determine wild card berths, 12.333 to 12.143. Those averages rank 16th and 18th, respectively, out of the 25 teams in Class AAA. Sixteen teams — five district champions and 10 wild cards — advance to the postseason.

Heritage Academy (12.500) and Columbia Academy (12.000) are also battling for the last spot. The MAIS power point formula gives teams bonus points for each game their opponents win, so a number of contests over the last two weeks will factor into who gets in and who stays home. For St. Al and Central Hinds, though, winning is the easiest way to help their cause.

“We’ve got to hope a lot of things play out our way in the district,” Central Hinds coach Lance Teasley said. “Like I told the boys, your playoffs start now.”

Befitting the topsy-turvy playoff scenario, Teasley said he’s almost approaching this game as if St. Al is the juggernaut that advanced to the MHSAA Class 1A championship game a season ago.

St. Al has been plagued by injuries this season — a big reason they’ve only won twice — but has gotten a few key players back at exactly the right time. Running back DeMichael Harris missed five games with an ankle injury, but has 360 rushing yards and six touchdowns in two games since returning. He had 230 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 37-7 win over Manchester Academy.

“You can’t look at their scores because they haven’t had their starting 11 out there yet, and they’ve played a hard schedule,” Teasley said. “Once all 11 got on the field, you’re starting to see how good they are.”

Central Hinds has an offensive superstar of its own. Junior quarterback Tanner Leggett threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 158 yards and three scores on only 11 carries in a 70-42 loss to Riverfield last week. He’s put up similar yardage totals in most of the Cougars’ games this season.

Leggett’s ability to improvise and make people miss in the open field makes any play potentially a big one. It could also turn this game into an offensive showcase if he and Harris can start breaking off big runs.

“They’re creative. They have the ability to turn a busted play into a play, and they have multiple weapons,” Smithhart said. “(Leggett’s) really good. He’s kind of the engine that runs the train. We have to be disciplined and make sure of our pursuit angles, because he’s quick.”

St. Aloysius at Central Hinds

Friday, 7 p.m.

Radio: 101.3 FM

Online: For live scoring updates on Friday night, visit or post

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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