No. 5 Gaels play for outright district title

ALBERT CITY – One more victory is all that separates the St. Edmond football team from clinching an outright Class 1A, District 2 title.

Looking to stay unbeaten, the fifth-ranked Gaels (7-0 overall, 5-0 in the district) will battle Sioux Central here tonight.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Last week, SEHS blanked rival Manson Northwest Webster by a 28-0 final for its third shutout of the year en route to securing at least a share of the league crown and a first-round home game in the upcoming playoffs.

“We want to be at the top (of the district), and we don’t want to share (the championship),” said SEHS head coach Dick Tighe, who will go for career win No. 408 this evening. “We played pretty well last week in all phases of the game against a good Manson team. (The Cougars) got down (in the red zone) twice, but we were able to hold them out (of the endzone). I was pretty proud that we were able to get another shutout.”

Against MNW, sophomore T.J. O’Tool produced 137 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while senior Vinnie Harvey rumbled for 121 yards and one score.

Quarterback Matthew Bocken, a junior, also went a perfect 3-for-3 passing for 88 yards and a pair of TDs – both going to classmate Landon Peed.

“Offensively, we’re not going to change things up much at this point in the season,” Tighe said. “We did work on a few dropback passes in practice this week that we might need in the future. The big key, though, is that we seem to be pretty healthy.”

Harvey, a 225-pound fullback, is now tied for third in 1A in rushing scores (19) and ranks 11th in total rushing yards (867).

O’Tool and junior Michael Faiferlick have combined for 918 yards, while reaching paydirt eight times on 112 carries.

Bocken has gone 12 of 23 through the air for 329 yards, including four TD and no picks. Peed has hauled in 11 catches for 314 yards and four scores.

On the defensive side of the ball, the relentless Gaels are allowing just 184.3 total yards per game. SEHS, which has outscored its first seven opponents by a whopping margin of 242-42, has forced 16 takeaways on the year.

“Our defense has been a pleasant surprise,” said Tighe. “We have quite a few replacements from last year, but we still haven’t given up a single rushing touchdown in the district, which is hard to believe.”

The Rebels (4-3, 2-2) are coming off a 50-22 drubbing of winless Okoboji. In that contest, junior Devin Tripp ran 39 times for a career-high 342 yards and four scores for Sioux Central.

Tripp is the third leading rusher in 1A this season, compiling 1,246 yards and 14 TD on 246 attempts. As a sophomore, Tripp finished 10th in 1A in yards on the ground (1,484).

“I think Sioux Central is kind of comparable to Pocahontas (Area),” Tighe said. “(The Rebels) have some good players. They run a quick huddle (offense) that’s a perfect imitation of Emmetsburg.

“We need to make them drive the length of the field and win the battle in the trenches.”

Senior Nathan Leer (74 totes, 654 yards, 5 TD) and classmate Parker Habben (66-326-3) are the other top offensive threats for Sioux Central. Habben has thrown for only 189 yards, with no scores and three interceptions.

Sioux Central, which currently sits in fourth place in the district standings, has yielded just 12.3 points per contest in its four triumphs compared to 39 points in their three losses. The Rebels are under the direction of former Clay Central-Everly standout Brandon Goodchild – a nephew of West Bend-Mallard legend and current Iowa Central offensive line coach Koy Goodchild.

A year ago, the Gaels downed Sioux Central by a 36-8 count. Since the start of the 2011 campaign, SEHS sports a 25-4 overall mark. This fall’s playoff appearance will be the eighth for St. Edmond since 2004.

Following tonight’s action, the Gaels wrap up their regular season next Friday in a non-district matchup at Eagle Grove (0-7).