CLINTON — Silliman Institute continues to play stingy defense, and the Wildcats made believers of St. Aloysius coach B.J. Smithhardt Friday night.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats kept the Flashes’ high-powered offense in check for much of the game and limited running back DeMichael Harris to 145 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown in a 28-7 triumph in a second round Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class 3A playoff contest. The Wildcats have given up only two touchdowns in their two playoff games and had three straight shutouts to end the regular season.
“That’s one of the best teams we’ve faced all year, and I’m proud of the way our kids played,” said Smithhardt, whose team finished the season 6-6. “They don’t have any weaknesses and they’re defense is awfully strong. They play disciplined and don’t make mistakes and they do the things you need to do in the postseason to be successful.”
Harris had gained 324 yards and scored six touchdowns in last week’s playoff win, but the Wildcats’ defense put the clamps on him. They also forced two fumbles and snared an interception, while limiting the visitors to 262 total yards.
Meanwhile, running back Reed Rushing ran for 184 yard on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns and caught a 43-yard screen pass for another score for the fourth-seeded Wildcats.
The victory, Silliman’s ninth straight, advances coach T.J. Davis’ team to a Class 3A semifinal game next week, which will also be played on their home turf in Knighten Stadium. They will host ninth-seeded Leake Academy, which stunned top-seeded Adams County Christian School, 28-19, in another Class 3A playoff game Friday night.
“Hats off to the defensive side of the ball, the coaches and players did a great job executing,” Silliman coach Davis said, whose team improved to 10-1 for the season. “We were sloppy at times, and that’s not like us. But this win was a total team effort.”
Silliman jumped out to a 21-0 lead before the Flashes cut it to 21-7 at the half. Michael Beauchamp scored on a 14-yard run in the first quarter, followed by a 43-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zach Kelly to Rushing, who also had a 14-yard TD run for the Wildcats. The Flashes countered with an 11-yard TD run by Harris right before the intermission.
The second half was more of the same as Silliman shut out the visitors. After a scoreless third period, the Wildcats added an insurance touchdown when Rushing scampered 6 yards to make it 28-7. Kelly had a steady game with 186 yards of total offense, including 8 of 13 passing for 157 yards.
“This team still has some things we can improve on, but this was a complete win and we’ll take, continue working on getting better and get ready for next week,” Davis said.