Flashes facing ‘do-or-die’ situation against Manchester

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2023

St. Aloysius football coach Bubba Nettles minces no words when assessing the corner his team has backed itself into.

“This is do-or-die. That’s the way I’m approaching it, the way these kids are approaching it. It is sudden death as far as I’m concerned,” Nettles said.

Nettles was largely referring to the Flashes’ slim playoff hopes which, even with an 0-8 record, are somehow still intact thanks to the MAIS power points system, wild card berths and a bracket in which 12 of the 15 teams in Class 4A qualify.

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He was also, however, talking about the Flashes’ unwanted place in history.

The team is mired in a 17-game losing streak, the longest in the program’s storied 113-year history. It is also trying to avoid the first winless season since 1913, when their long-ago predecessors finished 0-2.

St. Al has had six one-win seasons in the past century-plus, but never an oh-fer. Barring a postseason berth, there are only two chances left — this Friday at Manchester Academy (3-5) and next week at home vs. Winston Academy (4-4) — to put that misery in the rearview mirror.

“It’s huge for myself, our coaches, the kids that are returning, our seniors. It’s a big old monkey sitting on our back that we are doing our very best to kick off,” Nettles said. “Nobody wants to be on that side of the history.”

Although they’ve been shut out in their last two games, there has been some reason for optimism for the Flashes. The defense played well in losses to Riverfield and Columbia Academy, which allowed the Flashes to stay in both games until the end. Only one of their first six games was closer than 34 points.

“They’ve played lights out. Getting Damien (Reeves) and Thompson (Fortenberry) back on the defensive side of the ball was a big deal. I feel like if we’d have had them the week before, in a perfect circumstance, things might’ve been a lot different,” Nettles said. “But you can’t look back in the past, you have to keep moving forward. Those two were very integral parts in our defense.”

Manchester dominated the MAIS 8-man division from 2018-22. It played in four consecutive state championship games, won two, and compiled a 57-7 record.

Manchester switched back to 11-man football this season and has had mixed results. It has lost four of its last five games after a 2-1 start. Nettles, though, said the Mavericks haven’t dropped off far enough to take them lightly.

“Even though they’re 3A it doesn’t mean we’re thinking we’re just going to walk in there. We know better than that. We’re not overlooking these people at all. Our eyes are set on them,” Nettles said. “They’ve got some great football players. We’ve got our work cut out for us when we go up there. If we go up there light-handed they’ll embarrass us.”

All games start at 7 p.m.
Vicksburg High at Warren Central (Radio: 107.7 and 105.5 FM)
St. Aloysius at Manchester (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Wilkinson Christian at Porter’s Chapel (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Tallulah Academy at River Oaks
Sharkey-Issaquena Academy at Claiborne Academy
Central Hinds at Tri-County
Clinton Christian at Port Gibson
Madison Parish at Mangham

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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