Rolling St. Al wraps up regular season

Published 8:00 am Thursday, October 18, 2018

At one point, the St. Aloysius Flashes were floundering along with an 0-4 record and staring a long season square in the face.

That was so six weeks ago.

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Right now, the Flashes are one of the hottest teams in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools. They’ve won four of their last five games, earned a spot in the Class AAA playoffs, and are averaging 40.8 points per game during their winning streak.

There’s one more game before they get to the fun stuff, Friday’s regular-season finale against Riverfield Academy (4-4, 3-1 District 3-AAA), and the challenge this week is to stay red hot and carry that momentum into the playoffs.

“We’ve been scoreboard watching for the last three or four weeks. But you want to take it one game at a time because this one is real big. We might be able to slip up a spot if we win, so we’re treating it like our first playoff game,” St. Al coach Michael Fields said.

St. Al (4-5, 3-1) is ranked 12th in the MAIS Class AAA power points rankings that determine playoff seedings and wild card berths, and the top 16 qualify. The power points formula gives teams points for victories, playing teams in certain classifications, and for victories by each of their opponents. The total is then divided by the number of games played to create an average.

St. Al’s average of 16.333 seems safely ahead of No. 17 Central Private’s 13.571, and well behind No. 9 Silliman’s 18.333. A win or a loss against Riverfield could swing the Flashes a spot or two either way, however, and greatly impact their playoff fate by giving them an easier or more difficult first-round draw.

The nature of the MAIS playoff system is such that every game across the state means something to someone, and there are so many permutations that Fields said it’s not worth worrying about until after the final whistle on Friday night.

“There are so many ifs and buts in there that you leave the game and figure it out then. I’m sure once we’re done we’ll be at the computer trying to see who did what, but until then all we can do is play,” Fields said.

St. Al (4-5, 3-1) has gotten its act together on nearly every front since falling to 0-4 with a 28-17 loss to Washington School on Sept. 7. It has scored at least 35 points in all four of its victories, more than 40 in three of them, and it hasn’t just been a productive offense piling up the points.

The Flashes have scored six touchdowns this season on defense and special teams, including four in last week’s 63-0 drubbing of Hillcrest Christian. Five of the 14 turnovers forced by the defense have been taken back for touchdowns, while several long punt and kickoff returns have led to short scoring drives for the offense.

Kicker Connor Smith has also been reliable, converting 30 of 32 PAT attempts and two of his six field goal tries.

“A lot of it is familiarity with each other,” Fields said. “We’re all getting used to each other, and the longer you’re together the better you’re going to be.”

In addition to the defensive and special teams touchdowns, the Flashes are also showing an aptitude for big plays on the offensive side of the ball. Twelve of the 23 offensive touchdowns they’ve scored this season have been longer than 30 yards, and several others have been longer than 20 yards.

“One thing it does on the other sideline is it makes you have to play the whole field. You can’t sit on any one thing. That’s what we can do now. We’re not a one-dimensional football team. We’re not putting the football on the ground, either,” said Fields, whose team has only committed three turnovers during its winning streak. “We’re a big-play team that can strike at any time, and I believe there’s not a team we can’t play with. But to keep that attitude, you have to keep on 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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