Struggling St. Al seeking answers

Published 9:00 am Monday, September 19, 2016

When the calendar flips from summer to fall this week, maybe the St. Aloysius Flashes can take it as a sign. The way their season has gone so far, changing from one season to the next isn’t the worst philosophical approach to take.

St. Al has reached the halfway point of the football season with an 0-5 record and an offense that seems stuck in neutral. In its last two games, it has only scored three offensive touchdowns and totaled 410 yards.

The defense has played well, but the offense is a growing concern for a team that still has the bulk of its district schedule in front of it and still harbors some playoff hopes.

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“Scoring helps,” St. Al coach BJ Smithhart said when asked what his team needs to do to end its losing streak. “We’ve just got to find ways to punch them in. We’ve got to find something that consistently works. We just don’t have much consistency.”

A lack of consistency was certainly a theme in the latest loss, a 33-14 setback against Hartfield in the District 3-AAA opener Friday night.

St. Al got into Hartfield territory on its opening possession before turning it over on downs. Its next drive was a three-and-out, and the one after that was a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown march.

The Flashes didn’t score again. They turned it over on four of their last seven possessions — including three times in the fourth quarter — and only had one more snap inside the red zone. With two minutes left and Hartfield comfortably in front, they ran a play from the 19-yard line that resulted in an interception.

“We’ve got to go back and look at it. We didn’t really sustain much,” Smithhart said. “We probably should have spread them out more.”

The offense’s struggles undermined a strong effort by the Flashes’ defense. After giving up two touchdowns and 146 yards on Hartfield’s first two possessions, they didn’t allow another point until the fourth quarter.

The defense even provided some points when linebacker Jaylen Whitaker returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter to give St. Al a 14-13 lead.

The offense, though, only had 110 total yards and six first downs in the second half. That forced a defense that’s thin on depth to constantly go back on the field with little rest.

“Since we have a small team and no depth, our starters are going to get tired. That’s the problem, we’re just getting gassed a lot,” said Whitaker, who also plays wide receiver and tight end on the offensive side of the ball. “I feel like we played pretty good on defense. It’s just depth. Depth is killing us.”

After five weeks, that’s also become a bit of a pattern. Three of St. Al’s first four losses were by a touchdown or less, and it has been tied or held a lead in the second half in three of its five losses. Friday’s game wound up being a 19-point blowout, but Hartfield didn’t fully seize control until Drew Willis scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 5:27 left to make it 26-14. It scored again a minute later after St. Al went for it on fourth down from its own 20.

A little offense could go a long way toward keeping the Flashes from wearing down, Whitaker said, and help them maintain their leads until the final whistle.

“It’s frustrating, because the game was so close and then we let it get out of hand. It’s getting frustrating to let leads go like this,” Whitaker said. “We’ve got to make changes on defense, and learn how to score on the offensive side of the ball.”


St. Aloysius at Adams County Christian School

Friday, 7 p.m.; Radio: 101.3 FM

Online: For live scoring updates, visit or

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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