Bragging rights for another year are on the line tomorrow night, as St. Joseph Catholic School takes on St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, in a storied matchup formerly dubbed “The Holy War.”
The Bruins will travel to Ridgeland Friday to take on their longtime rival in what could be a chance for both teams to turn around their seasons and shake off sluggish starts before going into division play.
The Saints come into the game with a 1-2 record, losing to Richland and Pisgah, a dominant Class 2A opponent. St. Joe is opening the season with a 0-3 record, having fallen to St. Stanislaus, Cathedral and Richland.
“Every game is important, but this one … last year we made it to the second round of the playoffs, but that’s not what everyone talks about. They talk about us beating St. Andrew’s,” Bruins head coach John Bond said. “That’s pretty important around here, especially to St. Joe alum, and I know St. Andrew’s feels the same way.”
Bond, now in his second year, led the Bruins to a 17-10 victory over the Saints in 2018, St. Joe’s fourth consecutive win.
Johnny Nichols is hoping to notch his first win against the Bruins in his third year.
St. Joe has won nine of the last 15 matchups, according to Maxpreps.com.
In 2017, the Saints fell 29-7. However, the team closed that gap in last year’s matchup, losing by just one possession.
“The game was down to the wire. We had the last possession but we didn’t tie it up,” Nichols said. “It was a good ball game at their place.”
The Saints will likely rely on their ground game, which is led by running backs Lleyton Carr and Jamon Harkless. Through the first two games, Carr carried the ball 49 times for 45 yards and five touchdowns. Harkless, his sophomore counterpart, had 26 touches for 133 yards one touchdown, Maxpreps.com figures show.
Carr and Harkless are also expected to make stops on defense, pulling double duty as linebackers. Through two games, Harkless notched 29 total tackles, while Carr had 17.
With a young offensive line, Bond said he’s trying to mix up the play calling, with a little bit of run and pass.
“We try to even it up a bit. We have a couple of guys that can catch, but will be primarily run,” he said. “We’re trying to run a little option and give our guys up front an advantage.
“Robert Clark and Matthew Blackwood are young. They’re going to need some help.”
Clark, a freshman and Blackwood, a sophomore are offensive guards. They’ll be helped by junior center Sam Harrison and senior tackles Wyatt Davis and Jaden Coleman.
Bond said his young team also will have to limit penalties. The Bruins had 13 of them in the first half against Cathedral. Those mistakes likely could have contributed to their 18-14 loss.
Like St. Andrew’s, athletes with St. Joe also play both sides of the ball.
“We had a first and 30 twice. Those we overcame. Then we had a second and 25. That we overcame and we scored on the first drive,” he said. “We were able to put together back-to-back scoring drives, but it’s pretty taxing on these guys, especially when they have to go both ways like they do.
“We can’t do that this week.”
St. Joe at a glance
-Class/Division: 2A, Region 4 (MHSAA)
-Head Coach: John Bond
-Assistant Coaches: David Streit, Mark Wilson and Jason Moore
-2018 record: 6-7
St. Andrew’s at a glance
-Class/Division: 3A, Region 6 (MHSAA)
-Head Coach: Johnny Nichols
-Assistant Coaches: Daryl Owens, Dan Roach, Bradford Blackmon, Jordan Nichols and Scott Johnson
-2018 record: 5-6
KEYS TO VICTORY
-Limit mistakes: St. Joe had 13 penalties in the first half against Cathedral. Could have been a deciding factor in what was an 18-14 decision.
-Stop the run: In the first two games, St. Andrew’s recorded 501 rushing yards, with only 38 passing. Stop the rush and the Saints will be forced to throw the ball.
-Ball control: In its first two games, the Saints had four fumbles, all for a loss.
-Work on passing game: The Saints’ rushing game is top-notch, but the offense will have to be more balanced, especially when it goes into district play.