Game day for Gaels

CEDAR FALLS – For the first time in school history, the fourth-ranked (Class 1A) St. Edmond football team will play inside the UNI-Dome.

The Gaels (12-0 overall) take on No. 9 Van Meter (12-0) in a state semifinal contest.

Kickoff is set for 1:06 p.m.

St. Edmond set a new school-record with its 12th victory of the season last week, crushing South O’Brien, 42-3. The Gaels had never advanced past the quarterfinal round before this current run, while the Bulldogs were semifinalists in 1996.

“We’ve had an incredible season,” said SEHS head coach Dick Tighe, who now owns 412 career victories. “These kids have put in the work and now, they are enjoying the benefits of it.”

Tighe, who guided Iowa Falls-Alden to the semis and the UNI-Dome as a co-head coach, also brought Webster City to the final four. Those games, though, were not played at the current site of the final rounds.

The latest, though, is one he will cherish for a while.

“With those first three playoff games (taking place in a matter of two weeks), you don’t get a lot of time to enjoy the wins,” he said. “Now, we have over a week before we play again and we did get a couple of days to enjoy the latest win.

“We were right back to practice Monday and we’ve had a good week (of practice) since.”

Led by Vinnie Harvey, St. Edmond has racked up games of 40-plus points five times, including twice in the postseason.

Between convincing victories over Hartley-HMS and South O’Brien, the Gaels did survive a scare, defeating rival Manson Northwest Webster, 14-6.

“I think we needed a game like against Manson Northwest Webster,” senior co-captain Hank Crimmins said. “It kind of opened our eyes that we couldn’t just come out and expect to win.

“(In the quarterfinals), we made sure we wouldn’t need any late breaks to move on.?We just came out and dominated from the start like we knew we could.”

Harvey, who set a new school record for career rushing touchdowns, has 1,458 yards and 32 touchdowns this year on the ground. T.J. O’Tool, just a sophomore, has contributed 1,241 yards and 13 scores.

“I don’t know if Van Meter has seen a team like us, as most of the tape we saw had them going up against the spread offense,” Tighe said. “Everybody knows what we are going to do, but if you haven’t seen it or played against it, it can be difficult to stop.”

Matthew Bocken has stepped in at quarterback and been effective when called upon, throwing for 536 yards and seven TDs against just two interceptions. His main target is Landon Peed, who continues to climb the receiving charts as just a junior.

Peed has caught 18 passes for 521 yards and seven scores. He is also a threat in the return game, averaging 31.5 yards per kickoff and 13.5 on punt returns.

Pat Schomberg, the SEHS defensive coordinator, has employed a bend-but-don’t-break attitude that his players have embraced. The Gaels are allowing just 6.4 points per game, and have surrendered double figures just twice.

“When teams get down to the red zone, we’ve come up with turnovers or stops,” Schomberg said. “I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s a little luck, but it’s worked.”

Harvey has eight sacks, while Peed has recorded six interceptions. St. Edmond as a team has forced 29 turnovers.

The Bulldogs have been just as dominant in the postseason as St. Edmond, defeating their three playoff opponents, 96-14. That includes a 21-0 shutout over Ogden in the quarterfinals.

Unlike the Gaels, Van Meter and head coach Eric Trudo rely on quarterback Brandon Brittain, a dual-threat who has 1,548 yards passing and 1,145 yards rushing.

Brittain has completed 56 percent of his passes, throwing for 16 scores and running in another 16.

“He is a quarterback who will try to run you over more than make you miss him,” Tighe said of Brittain. “We have to do a good job of tackling him. Also, he’ll look for the deep pass and try to make big plays with his arm.”

Cody Blackwell provides a more than suitable backfield mate, as the junior has 1,405 yards rushing and 18 scores. Logan Crawford (33-567-7), Ben Flaherty (26-343-5) and Grant Hoppes (21-304-4) are Brittain’s top targets.

Crawford, Parker Suckow and Spencer Benton anchor the defense, which has allowed just 8.5 points per game. Benton has seven sacks and Van Meter has 35 takeaways as a unit.

Game notes: Trudo, who is 60-31 in his career, attended Ogden, the team Van Meter defeated in the quarterfinals. … The Bulldogs have qualified for the postseason each of the past six seasons. … This is Tighe’s 22nd playoff team, including eight with the Gaels. … Van Meter has seven players who start on both offense and defense, while St. Edmond features eight. … The three teams the Gaels beat in the postseason had a combined record of 22-11, while Van Meter’s three opponents were 23-10. … Brittain also excels on the baseball diamond, as he went 9-1 with 96 strikeouts last year and batted .555 with 16 homers, 68 RBI and 22 steals. … Van Meter lost in the state baseball semifinals to Van Buren.