Little things, big difference
It wasn’t something will show up in the stat sheet – fitting, given the personality of this St. Edmond football team.
Trailing 6-0 and in desperate need of a momentum-changing play at the end of the third quarter, Gael senior Vinnie Harvey went all-out to try and stop a St. Edmond punt from going into the end zone.
Harvey channeled as much inner athletic energy as he could, diving and swatting the ball down at the one-yard line to pin Manson Northwest Webster deep in its own territory at the start the fourth quarter of a Class 1A second-round playoff game on Monday inside Dodger Stadium.
”I don’t think I’ve ever done anything quite like that,” Harvey laughed after the fourth-rated Gaels had rallied for a 14-6 victory over the Cougars. ”It’s the kind of thing you see the pros do on Sundays. I just did my best to (avoid the touchback). We needed something to happen at that point. Anything.”
Two snaps later, junior Zach Gailey intercepted a pass to set up St. Edmond’s first touchdown – the go-ahead score on a short run by Harvey. It was the first of four fourth-quarter turnovers forced by the defense, which also received an interception from junior standout Landon Peed and both a pick and a fumble recovery by junior Nick Hindt.
The end result was another landmark victory for the previously-unassuming Gaels, who weren’t ranked at the start of the season but now stand alone as the only grid squad in school history to earn two postseason victories. St. Edmond heads into Friday’s quarterfinal matchup with South O’Brien unbeaten at 11-0, matching the 2005 record for single-season wins and one step away from its first-ever trip to the UNI-Dome.
From Harvey’s heroics to the efforts of Peed and Hindt – right on down the line and to a man – St. Edmond did what it needed to do with its back against the wall. The Cougars (8-3) weren’t just here to hang around this time; they were in a prime position to win, and had every opportunity to do so until the Gaels collectively turned the tide down the stretch.
Opponents can’t stop just one player and expect to take this St. Edmond squad down. The Gaels come at their foes from any and all directions – not with glitz and glamour, but guts and heart.
”We had to find a way to step up and make plays,” said Peed, a dual threat at wide receiver and safety. ”We were in a fight, playing from behind for the first time really (in the second half) since our opener, and we had to overcome adversity.
”This feels awesome, knowing how much we were pushed and that we had so many different guys coming through for us when it mattered most.”
Head coach Jeff Anliker’s squad had four deep drives into the red zone. Three came up empty. MNW was unable to stretch its lead beyond a single possession despite the fact that they ”basically dominated us for the first three quarters,” SEHS head coach Dick Tighe admitted.
”Fortunately, we had a big fourth,” Tighe winked.
So despite accumulating only 123 yards of total offense – including just 36 in the first half – the Gaels are navigating their way into uncharted waters. They don’t have the big-name players or the high-profile reputation they’ve carried in years past, but they do all the little things it takes to win football games.
Like Harvey’s save.
”It’s only going to get harder – we knew that coming in,” Hindt said. ”(Manson NW) was great (last night). They deserve a lot of credit. Our backs were against the wall.
”When push comes to shove, we learned a lot about ourselves. It’s the kind of challenge and experience that will only help us from here on out. We didn’t panic and we pulled through. Together. ”