Flashes face Riverfield with district crown on the line

Published 9:00 am Thursday, October 22, 2015

St. Aloysius’ football team was trucked with injuries earlier in the season and lost its first five games. The Flashes are currently in their first winning streak of the season and can extend it to a third game Friday against Riverfield Academy.

They can also extend their season.

The winner Friday will claim the District 3-AAA championship and an automatic berth in the MAIS Class AAA playoffs. The loser is still almost guaranteed of earning a wild card berth in the 16-team bracket, but there’s little doubt which way both teams would rather punch their ticket to the postseason.

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Playing in a district championship game will be a lot different than the first time St. Al (3-6, 3-0 District 3-AAA) and Riverfield (6-2, 3-0) met. Riverfield won 12-7 in a two-quarter preseason jamboree game in August.

Both teams have changed a lot since then, but St. Al coach BJ Smithhart saw enough of the Raiders to get a grasp of the team he’ll be facing in Friday’s regular-season finale.

“They’re very hard-nosed, disciplined and grind it out,” Smithhart said, adding Riverfield runs a throwback type of offense. “They take pride in that. Everybody’s going spread and shotgun, they take pride in what they do and they do it well.”

Smithhart will continue to put his trust in the things that have worked for his team this season, which is run the ball.

The Flashes have 21 touchdowns on the ground compared to only five through the air. In wins against Hartfield Academy, Manchester and Central Hinds, St. Al averaged 346 rushing yards and has 1,927 on the season.

Smithhart wants his team to be balanced and as focused and prepared as they would be for any other game, despite being on a big stage.

“Hopefully we don’t get thrown off there, don’t commit penalties and turnovers. I think that’s big in any game,” Smithhart said. “Then get a special teams play in there somewhere. In the end it’s going to change one way or the other. If you can win those three things, then you can come out on top.”

St. Al has rushed for 662 yards in its last two games, mostly on the legs of running back DeMichael Harris.

The senior missed all or parts of five games with an ankle injury suffered Aug. 28 against Pisgah. Since returning to the lineup Oct. 2 against Greenville-St. Joseph he has racked up points and much-needed yards for the Flashes.

In just three games, Harris has 585 yards and 11 touchdowns, and for the season is the team’s second leading rusher with 643 yards and 12 touchdowns.

He’s rushed for more than 200 yards each of the last two games and last week tied a school record with five rushing touchdowns in a 55-17 rout of Central Hinds.

Connor Bottin, the starter while Harris was out, leads the Flashes with 776 yards.

Harris needs 138 yards to reach 3,000 for his high school career. He will become the 10th player in Warren County to reach this milestone, and the first since Warren Central great Brian Darden did it more than 20 years ago. Darden finished his career with 4,919 yards from 1991-1994.

Harris is also on the cusp of breaking a school record for rushing touchdowns. Stacy Williams (1993-95) holds the record at 45 touchdowns, while Harris has 36.

Smithhart said having Harris back provides the Flashes with instant offense and depth.

“Any time you get starters back you get better,” Smithhart said. “He turns good runs into scoring runs. He’s just a really good player and one of the better ones in the conference.”

Riverfield at St. Aloysius

Friday, 7 p.m.

Radio: 101.3 FM

Online: For live scoring updates on Friday night, visit Facebook.com/thevicksburgpost and Twitter.com/vicksburgpost