Gaels meet Manson NW again

No St. Edmond football team has ever recorded two playoff victories in the same season.

The fourth-ranked Gaels (10-0 overall) will now have that opportunity tonight when they host rival Manson Northwest Webster (8-2) in a second-round Class 1A game.

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

Despite blanking the Cougars in Week 7 by a 28-0 final, legendary head coach Dick Tighe expects his unbeaten SEHS squad to be pushed to the limit this time around.

“We know it’ll be a whole new ballgame (this evening),” said the 83-year old Tighe, who owns 410 career wins. “(MNW) has gained a lot of momentum since that game three weeks ago. Hopefully, we have improved a little bit, too. You can’t beat playing at home again, so everything looks to be in our favor.”

In their postseason opener last Wednesday, the District 2 champion Gaels trounced Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn, 49-7. Sophomore T.J. O’Tool (14 carries, 121 yards, 1 TD), senior Vinnie Harvey (20-98-3) and junior Michael Faiferlick (9-93-2) all shined out of the backfield for the green and white.

Harvey is currently tied for first in 1A in rushing scores (26) and 12th in total rushing yards (1,217) – numbers that rank second and seventh among the top single-season marks in program history. The 225-pound fullback has eclipsed the 100-yard barrier on seven occasions this year.

O’Tool has also delivered 921 yards and found paydirt 11 times, while Faiferlick has added an even 500 yards and four touchdowns. As a unit, St. Edmond is eighth in 1A in yards on the ground (2,958).

“We were able to have some success on the ground (Wednesday) with three different guys,” Tighe said. “We think we can move the ball again, but we also need to stop (the Cougars). Their defensive line is big, and we really need to get after them and block well up front.”

Junior quarterback Matthew Bocken of SEHS has gone 17-for-36 through the air for 510 yards, including seven scores and one pick. Classmate Landon Peed has pulled down 16 catches for 495 yards and seven TD. For his career, Peed is third all-time at SEHS in yards receiving (949) and receiving scores (14), while ranking 11th in receptions (35).

“We’ve been trying to work a little more on our passing game, but it was so darn windy and hard to do much throwing at all (yesterday),” said Tighe. “If an opportunity presents itself, we’d sure like to take a deep shot every so often.”

Defensively, the relentless Gaels have pitched three shutouts, while holding eight opponents to nine points or less. Mason City Newman (20) and Sioux Central (12) have been the only teams to reach double figures against St. Edmond, which has outscored its 10 foes by a combined margin of 367-68.

After securing their first-ever victory over Emmetsburg in Week 5, the Cougars hammered the previous two-time defending state semifinalist E-Hawks by a 40-6 count in their playoff opener – both of those MNW wins actually came on the road at Duane Twait Field. Under the direction of Jeff Anliker, Manson Northwest Webster is making its fifth postseason trip since 2008.

“I think it’s good for both teams that we’ve already faced each other just for the prep work,” said Anliker, a former St. Edmond and Pomeroy-Palmer head coach, who guided MNW to a second straight 1A state track title this past spring. “It’s nice for us that (the Gaels) do a lot of the same things as Emmetsburg, who we already prepped four days for.”

Signal-caller Alex Bush, a junior, has completed 73 of 137 passes for 990 yards, with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Seniors Hudson Spedding (22-351-2) and Braden Moser (15-280-4) form a dangerous receiving tandem for the Cougars.

“We must take advantage of our chances when we get down (in the red zone) and limit their big plays,” Anliker said. “(Against Emmetsburg on Wednesday), I really thought that was the best team we’ve put on the field. Getting Hudson back offensively from a broken pinky finger along with some other younger kids that were banged up was a big key for us.”

Coy Snell, a junior, has contributed a team-high 933 rushing yards and 10 scores Manson Northwest Webster, while Moser has gained 474 yards and reached the endzone seven times.

Seniors Tanner Peterson (75) and Lucas Dolder (67) lead the Cougars in tackles. Spedding has notched four picks, while classmate Payton Rice has managed three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Since falling to St. Edmond back on Oct. 11, Manson Northwest Webster has reeled off three triumphs in a row.

The Gaels, who are 18-2 at Dodger Stadium since 2010, have won nine consecutive meetings between these two schools by a combined score of 247-74. MNW last prevailed in 2002, claiming a 26-14 victory.