Gaels roll at home

St. Edmond answered any lingering questions about their role as the Class 1A, District 2 frontrunner with an emphatic win over Manson Northwest Webster here Friday.

The sixth-ranked Gaels made quick work of the Cougars inside Dodger Stadium, pitching a 28-0 shutout to secure at least a share of the district championship and a first-round home game in the upcoming playoffs.

Head coach Dick Tighe’s squad turned to the power of Vinnie Harvey, the speed of T.J. O’Tool and the hands of Lucas Peed to secure just the fourth 7-0 start in school history. The St. Edmond defense did the rest, as the starting unit didn’t surrender a point again to extend a scoreless streak that has now reached 20 consecutive quarters.

The Gaels (7-0 overall, 5-0 district) have now beaten their last five opponents by a combined margin of 201-13.

”I’m proud of the kids; this was a really complete effort on both sides of the ball against a tough Manson team,” Tighe said. ”We really had to work hard to find the places to probe, but we were able to keep them off-balance (offensively) and the defense just keeps stepping up to these challenges.

”It definitely wasn’t as easy (as the final indicated). We had one big, long drive (in the second quarter) and another quick (touchdown right before the half). It was big to get that second score and find some breathing room (heading into the intermission).”

The Cougars (5-2, 2-2) appeared ready to break the scoring ice late in the first quarter by reaching the St. Edmond 6-yard line. On 4th-and-1, though, senior Jimmy Averill made a big stop to turn the ball back over to the Gaels, who then marched 93 yards on 18 plays to paydirt for a 7-0 advantage.

”That was definitely an early turning point,” MNW head coach Jeff Anliker said of Averill’s tackle for loss. ”We put together a nice (60-yard) drive and had the momentum, but (Averill) made a big play.

”You have to give St. Edmond a ton of credit. They’re a very physical ballclub and they beat us at the point of attack. Their playmakers came up big.”

St. Edmond appeared to be heading into the locker room up 7-0, but the Gaels drove 84 more yards in under two minutes for a double-digit advantage. Junior quarterback Matthew Bocken hit classmate Landon Peed for a 59-yard scoring strike up the left side of the field to cap the burst.

Sophomore T.J. O’Tool got in on the action and padded the Gael lead midway through the third quarter with a 70-yard dart up the middle for another touchdown. Bocken later found Peed again from 16 yards out to secure the final margin of victory.

St. Edmond made one final defensive stand late to preserve the shutout, as MNW was stopped five yards shy of the end zone in the last minute of regulation.

The game ended in a crisp one hour and 39 minutes.

O’Tool (137 yards) and Harvey (121) both easily cleared the century mark for the Gaels on the ground. St. Edmond had 283 cumulative yards rushing.

Bocken was a perfect 3-for-3, finding Peed all three times for 88 yards and the two scores.

”Even got a couple of touchdowns through the air,” Tighe smiled. ”We’ll need that kind of balance down the road. It was good to see us run for the tough yards inside, but also make some things happen in open space.”

The Cougars, who were averaging 33.5 points per contest before Friday’s setback, had just 156 yards of total offense and nine first downs.

”We just have to regroup,” Anliker said. ”One of our goals before the season was to win the district. We had a great opportunity in front of us (last night to tie for the district lead), but it didn’t happen so now it’s time to move on and focus on finishing the regular season strong.

”We’ve played a lot of physical teams in the last four weeks, and this was the toughest of the bunch.”

St. Edmond, which is 25-4 overall since the start of the 2011 season, can wrap up an outright district title this Friday at Sioux Central. MNW hosts Maple Valley/Anthon-Oto this week.