Flashes not giving up in pursuit of first win

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, October 5, 2023

The calendar has flipped to October and the football season is suddenly getting short for the St. Aloysius Flashes.

Only three chances remain to prevent their long losing streak from spilling over to a third season, or even just to make some happier memories than the ones they’re stuck with right now.

It’s not over yet, though, and that there are three chances — not zero — is what coach Bubba Nettles has been preaching to his players this week.

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“Just keep fighting. Our goal is still there. It has not gone away. It’s not over until the fat lady sings, and I haven’t even heard her warm up yet,” Nettles said.

St. Al (0-7) begins the final leg of the regular season Friday night, with a road trip to Columbia Academy (2-5). Like most of the games on the back half of the Flashes’ schedule, it seems winnable. This is the second of three consecutive opponents, along with Riverfield Academy last week and Manchester Academy next week, with losing records.

Nothing is easy for the Flashes this year, however, and certainly nothing can be taken for granted.

“Don’t get me wrong, all three of them are well-coached football teams. But a lot of them are fighting for success just like we are, so their kids are just as hungry as we are,” Nettles said. “It’s all a matter of execution and doing what you’re taught and coached, and just having trust in the process.”

St. Al’s biggest problem has been fielding a full roster. Already short on depth with only 22 varsity players, injuries and ill-timed illnesses thinned the ranks even more for potentially winnable games vs. East Rankin Academy and Riverfield.

Only 16 varsity players in grades 10-12 were available for last week’s 21-0 loss to Riverfield. Several eighth- and ninth-graders moved up from the junior high team to add depth. One of those, freshman Walt Andrews, had an interception in the end zone in the second quarter to stop a long drive by Riverfield.

“Being down as many starters as we were — out of our 22 10th through 12th grade true varsity roster, I think we dressed out 16 — they fought well and they played well,” Nettles said.

St. Al will get two starters back this week when Thompson Fortenberry (thumb) and Damian Reeves (ankle) are expected back in the lineup. On a team as small as St. Al, both players contribute on offense and defense, so having both back is a force multiplier.

“Getting those two back, for us, is like getting four people back because you get two guys on offense and two on defense. That would be huge,” Nettles said.

St. Aloysius started playing football in the early 1900s. It has had six seasons in which it only won one game, but only one in which it went winless. That was more than a century ago, when it finished 0-2 in 1913.

Breaking that streak is not the kind of history Nettles and the Flashes want to make. They’re more interested in ending their current 16-game slide and finally getting some positive traction heading toward the final few games of the season.

“It’s hard to defeat these kids. If we can get one this Friday, get one next week, I think it will cause a snowball effect. But it’s just a matter of getting that first one,” Nettles said. “Once we get it, I think they’ll understand what it takes and be completely different from that point forward.”

All games start at 7 p.m.
Vicksburg at Neshoba Central (Radio: 107.7 FM)
Sharkey-Issaquena at Porter’s Chapel (Radio: 104.5 FM)
St. Aloysius at Columbia Academy (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Ridgeland at Warren Central (Radio: 105.5 FM)
Tallulah Academy at Prentiss Christian
Port Gibson at Wesson
Rayville at Madison Parish

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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