St. Al hits field for scrimmage Friday night

Published 5:25 pm Thursday, August 3, 2017

The 2017 edition of St. Aloysius’ football team has been working with new coach Michael Fields for months. They’ve had a summer of conditioning and two weeks of daily practice to prepare for the season.

At last, the first — and perhaps most important — test is now upon them.

The Flashes will host Brookhaven Academy in a preseason scrimmage Friday at 6 p.m. at Balzli Field. The teams will run 40 plays apiece, broken up into four 10-play drives with no game clock. It will provide a good baseline for both of them to see where they are and where they need to go before the regular season begins in two weeks.

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“That’s when a coach can find out whether his scheme is working or whether he needs to go back to the drawing board,” Fields said.

St. Al’s season opener is Aug. 18, at home against Leake Academy.

St. Al will also participate in a jamboree next Friday at Louisiana-Monroe. It will play one quarter apiece against River Oaks and Claiborne Christian, but Fields said he expects to get more out of this week’s exhibition because of the way it’s structured.

“I think we’re going to get more out of this one, because we’re going to control it and it’s going to last longer,” Fields said. “Next week we’re just going to play for 25 minutes, which is basically a quarter. Running 40 plays is basically a half. I think we’ll get more out of this one, which will sharpen us up for next week.”

Getting dialed in, Fields added, was the primary focus for this scrimmage. The Flashes only have 20 players in grades 10-12 on the roster, with about another dozen eighth- and ninth-graders expected to play limited snaps for depth.

There is plenty of talent among the low numbers — junior quarterback Antonio Thompson threw for 1,003 yards and ran for 923 last season, while senior defensive end Jaylen Whitaker has committed to Louisiana-Lafayette — but still enough youth mixed in to make sloppiness a concern.

Eliminating small mistakes is a priority across the board, as is getting the younger players comfortable in game situations.

“The first thing we want to do is make sure we pay attention to detail. The kids knowing their assignments and cutting down on mistakes on things like offsides, holding and fumbling,” Fields said. “And also building depth. Who can do what? And me learning the kids, and the kids learning the coaching staff.”

Fields has spent the past three seasons as an assistant on St. Al’s coaching staff. He ascended to the head coach position when BJ Smithhart left to take over West Lincoln’s program.

Although he and his players have plenty of familiarity with each other, the preseason games will also give them an opportunity to work on their communication and get a feel for each other, Fields said.

“The kids have to get used to certain things,” Fields said. “They have some habits, and it’s not necessarily bad habits but it’s habits where one coach might be different from another coach and just wants different things. The kids have to get used to it, and that’s part of the game.”

ST. AL KEY DATES:
• Friday, Aug. 4: Scrimmage vs. Brookhaven Academy, 6 p.m.
• Aug. 11: Jamboree at Louisiana-Monroe; vs. River Oaks (4 p.m.) and Claiborne Christian (4:40 p.m.)
• Aug. 18: Regular season opener, vs. Leake Academy, 7 p.m.

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 139-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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