St. Al trio ready for next step

Published 9:02 am Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Three St. Aloysius football players planned to sign on the dotted line Wednesday morning to cement their future athletic careers.

Running back DeMichael Harris and defensive lineman Josh Price both planned to sign with Hinds Community College, while kicker Casey Griffith will head down to Southwest Mississippi Community College.

“I’m pretty confident they’ll contribute early and they’ll all be successful,” St. Al football coach BJ Smithhart said.

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Hinds runs a spread offense, which should highlight Harris’ athletic ability. In his senior year he became the 10th player in Warren County high school football history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in his career.

Harris set the county’s single-game rushing record with 395 yards in a playoff win over Bayou Academy, and became the fourth player to score six touchdowns in a game. His rushing total in that game also broke an 81-year-old school record.

In addition to his football prowess, Harris has excelled in track and field. He won the MHSAA Class 1A championship in the 100, 200 and 400 meters in 2015, with record-setting times in the 100 and 400.

“With DeMichael’s speed they can use him a lot of different ways,” Smithhart said. “Him being that fast, they’re going to try and get him space and let him be successful with that. I think that’ll be a perfect fit.”

Harris ended his final season with the Flashes with 1,470 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in nine games. He averaged 12 yards per attempt and 163 per game.

Through the recruiting process, Harris was patient with making his choice and prayed on his decision. He received advice from those who went through the experience and he was told to “follow God he’ll direct your way, follow your heart and don’t second guess yourself, once you pick somewhere then stick with it.”

Harris looks forward to the advanced level of competition, which he feels will make him a better player.

“When I went there it felt like family, it felt like home. Many people in this area have been to Hinds and had family go to Hinds,” Harris said.

Price had 52 total tackles and 12 sacks last season.

Like Harris, Price prayed on his decision and he’ll be joining his childhood friend at Hinds. The duo has played ball together since elementary school and having each other there will ease the transition to a new environment.

“Josh playing defense, I think he fits either a four or a three, I think he could play either a nose or a defensive tackle,” Smithhart said. “He’s really physical, so I look for him to have an impact and make some big plays on that side of the ball.”

Price said it was fun to have schools vie for his talents during the recruiting process.

“It got really hard at the end to tell schools that you didn’t really fit the program and not trying to hurt feelings while you’re doing it,” Price said.

Griffith went 36-of-39 on extra point attempts and made five field goals in 2015. The year before, when St. Al reached the MHSAA Class 1A championship game, he had his first PAT of the season blocked and then made 76 in a row.

Smithhart said Griffith would have to adjust to kicking off the ground in college and into a goalpost narrower than what he’s used to.

“He works hard at his craft. He’s continued to kick since the season and I’m really happy to see him get a chance,” Smithhart said.

Smithhart had numerous schools inquire about Harris and Price, but he would then sell those recruits on Griffith.

“I kept pushing him through that and kept sending out his highlights. It took a little bit longer when they were getting their offers from all the junior colleges and Alcorn, Casey really didn’t get the same kind of attention,” Smithhart said. “We just kind of stayed in contact and things worked its way out when Southwest offered him. He really wanted the opportunity to continue to play football and I think it’s a good place for him to do well.”