St. Al tries to inch closer to playoffs
Published 9:00 am Thursday, October 13, 2016
St. Aloysius has a clear path to the playoffs. All it has to do is not lose again.
The Flashes won the first of three must-win games last week, and now will try to clear hurdle No. 2 when they host Central Hinds on Friday night. A potential all-or-nothing game at Riverfield looms next week, but coach BJ Smithhart said he’s trying to stay focused on this one.
“Got to,” he said with a chuckle. “You’ve got to win the one in front of you.”
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St. Al (1-7, 1-1 District 3-AAA) started the season with a seven-game losing streak, which was snapped with its 28-21 victory over Manchester. St. Al likely will not be able to earn a wild card berth in the MAIS’ power points system. It was ranked 19th out of 25 teams this week, and the top 11 teams that don’t win their districts get in as wild cards.
The Flashes can still win the district title, however, thanks to a schedule that’s backloaded with district games. Manchester (3-1) is currently in first place, but would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with St. Al. So if the Flashes win their last two games, and Central Hinds (5-3, 1-1) beats Hartfield Academy (5-3, 2-1) next week, they’ll claim their third consecutive district championship.
Manchester would win a three-way point differential tiebreaker between it, St. Al and Hartfield.
Central Hinds cannot win the district title, but is in contention for a wild card.
“Getting to the playoffs or not, our goal is to win the district. We can’t win it outright, but we can win a share of it,” Smithhart said. “Our first goal is Central Hinds and building off of it. If it works out, it works out. We’re going to control what we can control.”
Just getting a win was some weight off the Flashes’ shoulders. They had blown second-half leads in four consecutive games, and nearly did it again against Manchester. They led 28-7 in the fourth quarter and gave up two touchdowns before stopping the Mavericks inside the 20 late in the game.
Coming away from that with a taste of success was just as important as keeping the season alive, Smithhart said.
“It’s always better to wake up winning, but our kids have had a great attitude all year,” Smithhart said. “I don’t know how tough it would’ve been to get up if we lost. Fortunately, we didn’t have to find out.”
While figuring what the Flashes have to do to get to the playoffs is relatively simple, actually doing it won’t be. Central Hinds features a high-scoring, explosive offense led by quarterback Tanner Leggett and sophomore running back Prentice Brown. The Cougars average 34 points per game.
Leggett, a senior in his fourth year as a starter, has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards while averaging about 10 yards per carry. He’s thrown less than 60 passes this season, yet is averaging 30 yards per completion. Brown started the season slow, but ran for 241 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-32 win over Riverfield last week.
“They’ve got a really good quarterback. He’s been there, done that, and can score points and move the offense,” Smithhart said. “Their quarterback can go. He can hit you with a big play in a minute. (Brown) has that capability, too.”
Smithhart said he feels the Flashes can keep up with the Cougars in the big play department. His quarterback, Antonio Thompson, had touchdown runs of 96 and 41 yards against Manchester.
“We’re pretty much a big-play team, too,” Smithhart said. “It could be fun to watch. Not to coach.”
FRIDAY’S AREA GAMES
All games start at 7 p.m.
Warren Central at Murrah (Radio: 105.5 FM)
Central Hinds at St. Aloysius (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Benton Academy at PCA (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Vicksburg at Ridgeland (Radio: 1490 AM)
Humphreys Academy at Sharkey-Issaquena
Tallulah Academy at Park Place Christian
Delta Streets at Rebul Academy
Port Gibson at Franklin County
Online: For live scoring updates on Friday night, visit twitter.com/vixpostsports or facebook.com/thevicksburgpost