Flashes focus on teamwork, chemistry in preseason

Published 8:00 am Friday, August 3, 2018

School isn’t in session yet, so the St. Aloysius Flashes are going to the football field for chemistry class.

St. Al will head to Brookhaven Academy for a 50-play scrimmage on Friday night, and then to the University of Louisiana-Monroe for two jamboree games next week. The main theme of the preseason work, coach Michael Fields said, was building chemistry among teammates — and at several key positions in particular — leading into the regular-season opener Aug. 17 at Leake Academy.

“Right now we have to take it as what is — scrimmages and regular practice, and try not to show too much while getting more physical and team-oriented,” Fields said. “You’re learning your players, your players are learning you, you’re learning your calls, guys are learning to trust each other and making plays.”

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Building chemistry is especially critical for the Flashes’ offense. Junior Phillip Upshaw is taking over at quarterback after Antonio Thompson transferred to Warren Central.

Thompson had been the Flashes’ starter for two seasons, and accounted for 4,417 total yards and 45 touchdowns. Upshaw threw three passes last season.

Fields has confidence in his new quarterback and was pleased with his progress, but added that getting some live game action under his belt was necessary before the opener. It will not only help Upshaw adjust to the speed of the game and recognizing defenses, but also to build timing and chemistry with his veteran receivers.

St. Al has its top two receivers, Ryan Theriot and Evan Fedell, both returning. They combined for 70 receptions, 1,088 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

“Each and every day, we’re trying to figure out and make sure what (Upshaw) can and can’t do, and perfect it before that first ballgame,” Fields said. “He’s doing well in certain aspects of the game. Especially running the football. He’s still got to learn the timing with the receivers. He’s got a good and veteran receiving corps and he’s got to learn what’s going on. He’s going to be OK.”

Fields added that he’s been especially pleased with the way Upshaw has run the ball. Thompson had nearly 2,000 rushing yards in his two seasons at St. Al, and if Upshaw can come close to that production it’ll keep the offense humming. St. Al scored 25 points or more in four of its last five games in 2017.

“He’s quick and he’s a competitor. That’s what I like about him. He’s tough as nails. I feel like when the fourth quarter comes, if it’s third-and-1 and I call his name I think he’ll get it,” Fields said.

St. Al will head into the season with only about 20 players on the varsity roster. Fields is no stranger to competing with small rosters, but said it’s still a challenge to get the team ready for the season without running them into the ground too early.

“That’s another thing we’ve got to worry about is the conditioning. Our guys are in pretty good condition, but you won’t know until you play a football game,” Fields said. “We do a pretty good job with that. I’ve got a lot of experience with small ballclubs and knowing when to let off so their legs can get back under them. Right now, we’re in pretty good shape. I feel like on Friday we’ll be the best conditioned team there. It might not look like it because of the depth factor, but we’re going to be the best conditioned team there.”

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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