Crusaders prepare for St. Patrick

By CAMAL PETRO,

HATTIESBURG – Nearly one year to the week the Sacred Heart Crusaders were hit with an illness that swept through their locker room during the bye week. This season it was the week of a game, coming before last Friday’s North Forrest contest.

Sacred Heart coach Lonny Schraeder said about 10 players, which is nearly a third of its roster, missed practice the Wednesday before North Forrest, but mostly everybody is back this week in preparation for St. Patrick, which is big for the Crusaders’ offensive line.

“I’m really hoping our offensive line comes through this week and steps up,” Schraeder said. “We basically played last week without practicing because of illnesses. Ask any offensive linemen, if you go a week without practicing, you’re not going to play well, and we didn’t. They know that, and I think they’re really ready to come back and play a good game.”

While the players who were sick are back this week, the Sacred Heart defense will be without its senior linebacker and captain, Hudson Garner, for the remainder of the season. Schraeder said Garner hurt his shoulder earlier in the season, but it wasn’t until after the North Forrest game when the decision to sit him for the rest of the season was made.

“He played his heart out against North Forrest with basically one arm,” Schraeder said. “After the game I told him he was done. Even if he wanted to play, I’m not going to let him. He was upset, everybody was upset, but it was for the best.”

St. Patrick and Sacred Heart are huge soccer rivals in the winter, but the two aren’t known for playing each other in football. The schools are both a part of the Biloxi Catholic Diocese, and the communities know each other pretty well, so Schraeder thought it would be a good idea to play this game.

The Fighting Irish have won two games through the first three games this season after going winless in 2015 and 2016. They’re a run-heavy team, and the Crusaders will have to be disciplined to stop their flex, Georgia Tech-style offense.

“You have to be assignment oriented,” Schraeder said. “You have to make sure everybody knows their job, and everybody has to do their job every time. If you all swarm to the ball, and the quarterback pitches the ball out, then off goes the halfback down the sideline. When you play a team that runs the option, everybody has to do their assignment.”

St. Patrick has played two out-of-state opponents, Snook Christian Academy (Foley, Ala.) and Pope John Paul II (Slidell, La.), and a familiar foe to Sacred Heart, Mount Olive. After dropping its contest with Snook Academy Week 1, St. Patrick won by 28 points over Mount Olive and by two points over Pope John Paul II, as the defense has only allowed 13 points per game.

“They have some pretty good-sized kids, and they run to the ball well. Once again, we’ll have to perform well,” Schraeder said.