Unbeaten Gaels host MNW

St. Edmond’s hopes of running the table to a perfect regular season faces a potential stumbling block tonight against rival Manson Northwest Webster.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Dodger Stadium.

Last week, the sixth-ranked Gaels (6-0 overall, 4-0 in Class 1A, District 2) coasted to a 35-7 road triumph over defending state quarterfinalist IKM-Manning. SEHS outgained the Wolves in total yardage, 385-80.

Senior Vinnie Harvey ran for 162 yards and three touchdowns, while sophomore T.J. O’Tool added 85 yards and a score of his own.

“It’s going to be a barnburner and a real challenge (this evening),” said Gael head coach Dick Tighe, who owns 406 career victories. “(The Cougars) are pretty prolific in terms of scoring and have a lot of weapons. It’ll be important for us not to fall asleep and give up any big plays.”

Through six games, Harvey, a 225-pound fullback, is tied for first in 1A in rushing TD (18) and ranks 12th in yards on the ground (746).

O’Tool and junior Michael Faiferlick have also combined for 780 yards, while finding paydirt seven times. As a team, St. Edmond is currently second in 1A in rushing scores (27) and eighth in rushing yards (1,762)

“Manson looks to be much more physical than any of the other teams we’ve played, but I still think we can have some success running the ball,” Tighe said. “As always, though, we’ll need to control the line of scrimmage and win the field position battle.”

Gael junior quarterback Matthew Bocken has completed 9 of 20 passes for 241 yards, as well, including a pair of scores and no interceptions. Classmate Landon Peed has pulled down a team-high eight receptions for an average of 28.3 yards per catch.

“We mixed things up a little more offensively last week (Bocken went 3 of 4 passing for 77 yards against the Wolves), which we’re probably going to need later on down the road,” said Tighe. “Bocken continues to get better every game, and he’s done a nice job of taking care of the football.”

After winning by only a combined 12 points through their first two games, SEHS has outscored its last four opponents by a lopsided total margin of 173-13. Defensively, the green and white have pitched a pair of shutouts and forced 16 takeaways on the year – 10 fumble recoveries and six picks.

“I was talking to (defensive coordinator) Pat (Schomberg) on the way home from Manning about how we haven’t given up a rushing touchdown since the first two weeks of the season,” Tighe said. “Our defense has been pretty consistent this year against both the run and the pass.”

Starter Jimmy Averill (ILB/WB) is expected to return to the Gael lineup tonight after being sidelined last Friday with a concussion.

Following three straight victories, Manson Northwest Webster (5-1, 2-1) also has plenty of momentum on its side. The Cougars, who are averaging 33.5 points and 316.3 yards per contest, are fresh off a 46-12 thumping of Sioux Central.

“We’ve been playing really good football defensively, and we’ve stayed balanced offensively,” said MNW head coach Jeff Anliker. “Our kids have worked extremely hard, and we’ve had a couple of big second-half comebacks. To be able to go into Week 7 and still have a shot at the district title is a positive for both our kids and the community.”

Manson Northwest Webster junior signal-caller Alex Bush has gone 49-for-97 passing for 679 yards, with six TD and eight interceptions. Seniors Hudson Spedding (15 grabs, 255 yards, 1 TD) and Braden Moser (12-232-3) form a dangerous receiving duo for the Cougars, whose lone setback came in a heartbreaking 30-28 decision to Ridge View.

Coy Snell, a junior, has accounted for 493 yards and reached the endzone four times on 78 attempts. Moser is next in line with 269 yards and five scores.

“I’ve been impressed with their defense,” Anliker said of SEHS. “They have a lot of kids you don’t hear of that are real solid football players.”

Ty Condon and Tanner Peterson, both seniors, spearhead the Cougars with 52 and 51 tackles, respectively. Manson Northwest Webster’s defensive unit has managed 10 picks and seven fumble recoveries, while holding four foes to 16 points or less.

Anliker, a former head coach at both Pomeroy-Palmer and St. Edmond, has directed MNW to the playoffs in four of the previous five years. This past spring, Anliker guided the Cougars to a second consecutive 1A state track championship.

The Gaels, who boast a 16-2 mark at Dodger Stadium since 2010, have won the past eight meetings between these two schools – separated by roughly 20 miles – by a combined score of 219-74. Manson Northwest Webster last prevailed in 2002, earning a 26-14 victory.