Flashes have sights set on homecoming victory

Published 6:00 am Thursday, October 11, 2018

For the first time in a while, the St. Aloysius Flashes are breathing easy heading into the final weeks of the football season.

They haven’t officially clinched a playoff berth and can’t finish the regular season with a record better than .500. The pathway to both of those things, however, is as wide open and as favorable as can be.

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The Flashes (3-5, 2-1 District 3-AAA) face Hillcrest Christian (0-8, 0-4) — a team riding a 20-game losing streak — this Friday night for homecoming. Win that, and next week’s finale against Riverfield Academy (4-4, 3-1) will be just for playoff seeding.

It’s a much better position than the past two years, when St. Al has had to win its last two games just to get into the postseason at all.

“We’ve got some goals for ourselves and want to improve our playoff seeding. But you have to win the games you should win, and this is one we should win,” St. Al coach Michael Fields said. “That’s what I’ve been telling our guys. (Hillcrest) hadn’t won a ballgame. If you don’t want to be the laughingstock of Mississippi, you’d better get ready.”

Hillcrest has not won since beating Amite School Center 37-7 on Sept. 30, 2016. It didn’t score a point this season until Week 6 against Greenville-St. Joseph, and then was shut out again the following week against Clinton Christian.

The Cougars did put up 19 points last week against Park Place, however. Fields said that was a sign that they can be dangerous if the Flashes don’t take them seriously.

“They have a quick quarterback and some tall receivers, and they can move the ball. They’ve got big play ability,” Fields said. “They started throwing it a little bit more and that worked for them. They have nothing to lose, and those are the kinds of teams that can be dangerous.”

St. Al likely locked up a berth in the MAIS Class AAA playoffs by crushing Cathedral 45-15 last week. It was the program’s first non-district victory since beating Bayou Academy in the 2015 playoffs and first over its Catholic school archrival since 2009.

Just as important, it was the kind of win that showed exactly what the Flashes are capable of when they play well.

They ran for 266 yards — running back Alvin Brown had 223 and two touchdowns — and only needed to throw seven passes, two of which were touchdowns. They added a defensive TD, and on special teams Ryan Theriot had a 71-yard punt return to set up another score while kicker Connor Smith booted a 20-yard field goal and was 6-for-6 on PAT attempts.

“We’ve been getting better every week,” Fields said. “We got started a little late with our preseason, but we’re starting to peak at the right time.”

The victory over Cathedral jumped St. Al three spots in the MAIS Class AAA power point rankings that are used to determine wild card berths and seeding. St. Al had been a precarious 15th out of 23 teams, and is now a more solid 12th. The five district champions and 11 wild card teams make up the 16-team bracket.

Two more wins could raise St. Al’s profile even more and provide a more favorable first-round matchup.

“I feel good about it. The biggest thing we have to do is continue to win and better our seeding. I don’t want to have to take a trip two or three hours away,” Fields said. “We can improve ourselves two or three spots if we can keep winning.”

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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