The stakes are high tonight for both teams at Turpin Stadium as the St. Mary’s High School football team wraps up the regular season against LaSalle.
The longtime rivals share identical 7-2 records. Neither will win the District 1-3A crown: both have fallen to powerful Logansport. St. Mary’s went down 50-23 last week on the road; LaSalle fell 50-7 on Oct. 14. Those are the only district defeats for the teams.
Next week, both will enter playoff brackets, St. Mary’s in Division IV and LaSalle in Class A. The outcome of tonight’s 7 o’clock contest will determine when, and where, they play next.
St. Mary’s is on the brink of hosting a home playoff game in the 16-team Division IV tournament with a win. LaSalle needs a win to get a first-round bye and the host’s role in a second-round game in the larger Class A bracket.
“We’ve looked at the power points and I feel strongly that if we win, we’ll be in that top eight and host here next week. We could even bump up in the 5-6 mark and possibly be in position to host a second-round game if things fall right,” said SMHS coach Aaron York, “but all that hinges on beating LaSalle.”
How to do that?
“Offensively, we have to establish control up front. We have to be physical, and establish the run. We need to hold on to the ball and take it away from them. Defensively, we need to avoid giving up big plays,” said York.
“They run the ball very well. The quarterback is smart, very athletic, a kid who plays multiple sports and all of them well.”
Getting win No. 8, with losses only to a pair of the state’s top public school teams (Class 3A’s No. 3-ranked Abbeville, and Class A’s No. 1-ranked Logansport), would be a very impressive regular season slate for St. Mary’s.
“It would be great to say we went 8-2 against this schedule, with the five non-district games against bigger schools,” said York. “And it’s Senior Night. You want to win for your seniors, because they are going to remember this ballgame.”
Tonight will be the final regular-season game for four St. Mary’s seniors: receiver/defensive back Graeme Fidelak, two-way lineman Cole Fisher, running back Jaydyn Jackson, and two-way lineman Gavin LaGrange. Fidelak and LaGrange are on the National Football Foundation’s Ark-La-Tex Scholar-Athlete Watch List.
“I’d go anywhere with these four,” said York. “They’re great men, they’re great competitors, but moreso, you’d love to have these guys around your family. These are the kind of young men you’re happy to have involved in shaping the future.”
As for any negative vibes after getting overwhelmed last week and losing for the first time since opening night, York is unconcerned.
“We told the kids, learn from last week but don’t dwell on it. Get the taste out of your mouth, get back to our winning ways and carry that into the playoffs. We have learned from it and are going to come out and play really well against LaSalle.”