Upshaw’s return, improving health give lift to St. Al’s offense

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, September 19, 2018

When asked how much the ankle injury that had kept him out of the past 2 1/2 games was still bothering him, Phillip Upshaw didn’t sugarcoat it.

“I can’t run yet,” he said.

In the best game of his life, he didn’t have to.

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Upshaw completed 9 of 10 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns last Friday in a 48-6 rout of crosstown rival Porter’s Chapel Academy. Upshaw’s receivers did a lot of the work — two short passes were turned into long touchdowns in the first quarter — but he delivered the ball on time, on target, and showed that the Flashes can pack quite an offensive punch with their first-string quarterback in the lineup.

The 48 points they scored against PCA were more than they had in their first four games combined.

“He sucked it up. He’s still injured, but he did it for the team and he had a great game,” St. Al coach Michael Fields said. “The guys were precise on their routes and he knew where they were going to be. He executed, and I’m proud of him.”

With St. Al ahead by 35 points at halftime, the second half was played with a running clock and limited Upshaw in his quest for the first 300-yard passing game in school history. He had already done plenty, however, in his first game action since injuring his ankle in Week 2 against Adams County Christian.

Upshaw’s first pass was a swing route that Preston McGowan took 52 yards to the end zone. The second was a crossing pattern to Evan Fedell that covered 86 yards and resulted in another touchdown and a 21-0 St. Al lead.

Upshaw completed passes of 17 and 31 yards on a scoring drive in the second quarter, as well as an 8-yarder to Fedell to convert a fourth down inside the 10-yard line. By halftime, the junior had 212 passing yards — nearly matching St. Al’s total of 235 through its first four games.

Upshaw said that even though he wasn’t able to play in games the past few weeks, he has been throwing in practice and that it paid off.

“I’ve been out for the past three weeks and I wasn’t as mobile as I want. I’m a scramble-first quarterback, but I knew if I was going to play this week I was going to have to throw the ball and that’s it,” Upshaw said. “For the past three weeks me and Coach Fields have been working on the pass game. We’ve been throwing every day. It worked out for us.”

It helped to have some speedy receivers as well. Upshaw’s final touchdown of the night was a 34-yard bomb to Trinye Brown, but the Flashes did most of their damage on short and intermediate routes that the receivers were able to break tackles on and turn into huge plays.

“That’s what I try to do is put other teams in a mismatch and make it a track meet, because we do well with that,” Fields said. “We knew their weaknesses were that they give you the flats outside, and if we could get out there it was going to be a footrace.”

Injuries hampered St. Al’s offense during a four-game losing streak to start the season. Upshaw and McGowan both sat out the previous week’s 28-17 loss to Washington School. Alvin Brown, the team’s leading rusher, did not play against PCA because of a hamstring injury.

Last Friday’s game, however, gave Fields hope that it was all starting to come back together in time to make a late-season run at a berth in the MAIS Class AAA playoffs.

“I think we should be 30 points a game good with all of them back,” Fields said of his injured players. “Especially with our special teams. Our special teams have been great for us. As long as the defense is getting off the field, if we can do that and get our touches we can be really exciting the rest of the way.”

Three of St. Al’s last five games are within District 3-AAA beginning with this week’s road trip to Park Place Christian (2-3, 0-0). Despite having one loss already in district play, the schedule keeps St. Al’s fate in its hands to earn a share of the district championship or a wild card berth.

“We’re still out of it. We’re 17th or 18th and the top 16 make the playoffs. A win this week would put us right in the middle of it,” Fields said. “On a scale of 0-10, this one’s a nine. With those four losses there’s no more room for disaster. We have our destiny in our hands, and that’s what you want as a football team.”

All games start at 7 p.m.

St. Aloysius at Park Place (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Union Christian at Porter’s Chapel (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Vicksburg at Germantown (Radio: 107.7 FM/1490 AM)
Northwest Rankin at Warren Central (Radio: 105.5 FM)
Clinton at Madison Central
Port Gibson at Amite County
Riverfield Academy at Central Hinds
Collegiate Christian at Tallulah Academy
Humphreys Academy at Sharkey-Issaquena Academy
Briarfield Academy at Prentiss Christian
Prairie View Academy at Rebul Academy
General Trass at Madison Parish

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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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