Fourth-ranked St. Edmond pushed all the right buttons in its Class 1A first-round playoff game Wednesday night.
Staying unbeaten, the Gaels (10-0 overall) crushed Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn by a 49-7 final at Dodger Stadium.
Manson Northwest Webster (8-2) now awaits District 2 champion SEHS in a second-round matchup here Monday. The Cougars, who suffered a 28-0 setback to the Gaels in Week 7, advanced with a 40-6 drubbing of Emmetsburg.
“We were able to take care of business and do everything we wanted to coming in,” said St. Edmond head coach Dick Tighe, who earned career win No. 410 last evening. “Our ground game was pretty effective again (the Gaels rushed for 339 yards on 52 carries), and our defense was excellent, too.
“Probably the other most important thing, especially at this point in the season, is that we didn’t appear to have any injuries (Wednesday).”
T.J. O’Tool, a sophomore, powered SEHS by rushing for 121 yards – with 94 of those coming before the break- and a touchdown. O’Tool staked the home team to a lead they never relinquished on a 25-yard dash to paydirt midway through the opening quarter.
“The (offensive) line was blocking great, which made my job really easy,” O’Tool said. “I didn’t know what to expect at the beginning of the season, but I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable now.
“This was a big win for us, but now we need to get prepared for the next game.”
Senior Vinnie Harvey added 98 yards and three scores for the Gaels, while junior Michael Faiferlick ran nine times for 93 yards and a pair of TD.
Due to the 35-point differential rule, the clock ran continuously after a Harvey 1-yard plunge with 6:35 left in the third. Following a dry first half, a light rain fell throughout the final two periods.
“(The Hawks) were ganging up (defensively) on Harvey, so we had some success faking him the ball and getting both O’Tool and Faiferlick loose on the outside,” said Tighe. “O’Tool has been a real find for us, and Faiferlick has flashed his potential at times, as well.”
Quarterback Matthew Bocken, a SEHS junior, went 2-for-5 passing for 92 yards and a touchdown – all going to classmate Landon Peed. Bocken hooked up with Peed on a 55-yard scoring strike early in the second. Both of Peed’s catches were highlight-reel plays.
“(Bocken) doesn’t get a chance to throw much in our offense, but he’s just been steady,” Tighe said. “He hangs in (the pocket) as good as he can, and his ball security has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more out of him.”
Peed and Hank Crimmins each collected interceptions for the suffocating Gael defensive unit, which forced five punts and held Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn (4-6) to only 157 total yards and five first downs. Harvey also notched his seventh sack of the year.
Crimmins went a perfect 7-for-7 on PAT attempts, as well. For a third straight game, SEHS never punted.
Hunter Kuehl broke up St. Edmond’s bid for a fourth shutout of the season by breaking free for a 42-yard scoring jaunt with eight minutes left in the contest, which came against several Gael reserves. Kuehl finished with 93 yards rushing on 15 totes.
H-M-S, which was making its ninth-ever playoff trip, was without the services of senior standout Logan Rozeboom (arm injury).
Through 10 games, Harvey has now accounted for 1,217 yards and 26 TD. The 225-pound fullback has eclipsed the 100-yard barrier on seven occasions.
With the victory, SEHS improved to 18-2 at Dodger Stadium since the 2010 campaign, including 5-0 this fall. Dating back to 2004, the Gaels are 5-3 in playoff openers. St. Edmond is now 5-10 all-time in the postseason.