Gaels lose title game

CEDAR FALLS – Historical seasons are never defined by just one game.

Playing for its first-ever state football championship, fourth-ranked St. Edmond (13-1 overall) saw its unbeaten campaign come to a halt Friday afternoon, dropping a 35-0 decision to No. 1 Iowa City Regina (14-0) in the Class 1A title round at the UNI-Dome.

With the victory, the Regals earned their fourth straight state crown, matching Solon (2007-10) as the only Iowa schools to achieve the rare feat. Regina, which is also the lone Iowa program to go undefeated four years in a row, has now prevailed in a state record 56 consecutive games.

“(The Regals) are just exactly what I thought they’d be,” said 83-year old SEHS head coach Dick Tighe, who was directing his first team to a state final in 60 seasons on the sidelines. “I was worried about how we were going to stop them, and we never really did. They just had too many weapons all over the field.”

Despite being blanked for only the second time since 2010 and committing four turnovers, the Gaels still managed 312 yards of total offense – 207 rushing and a season-high 105 passing. District 2 champion SEHS actually finished with six plays of 26 yards or more, including a long of 48 on a T.J. O’Tool gallop before he was stripped of the ball just inside the Regina red zone early in the third quarter.

O’Tool accounted for 119 yards on 18 carries for SEHS. The sophomore tailback closed out the year with 1,538 yards rushing

“We were able to move the ball at times, but once we got down to crunch territory, we couldn’t do what we normally do,” Tighe said. “I hated getting shut out, but (Regina) deserves some of the credit for that, too. They were the much better team (yesterday).”

Quarterback Matthew Bocken, a Gael junior, went 5-for-18 through the air – with all 105 yards going to classmate Landon Peed. Bocken hooked up with Peed on back-to-back 29-yard passes on St. Edmond’s first drive of the game, which stalled out on downs at the Regina 10-yard line after a crisp 11-play, 77-yard march.

“They’re a big and physical team,” said Peed of the Regals. “They have good coaches and players that know what to do. Obviously this (loss) hurts right now, but not many teams can say they were able to play in a state final.”

Workhorse fullback Vinnie Harvey was held to a season-low 13 yards on only seven attempts for the Gaels. The 225-pound senior ended this fall with 1,594 yards and 35 touchdowns – numbers that rank third and first among the top single-season marks in school history. Harvey is now No. 1 all-time at SEHS in total rushing scores (44) and No. 4 in total rushing yards (2,424).

“I’m proud of our guys for not hanging their heads,” Harvey said. “We’re not feeling too well right now, but I’m sure in a couple of weeks we’ll be able to think more about what we accomplished this season.

“Coach Tighe has been a great role model that has just changed my life. To see what he does is pretty special.”

Peed and junior Nick Hindt each recovered fumbles for the green and white. Peed added 7.5 tackles. Regina coughed the ball up five times, losing it twice.

The Gael defensive unit, which came in surrendering a 1A-best seven points per game, watched the explosive Regals find paydirt on their first three possessions.

Drew Cook, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound junior, was an impressive 13-for-13 passing for 177 yards and a TD for Regina, while also running for a 5-yard score. Cook is the son of Regals’ head coach Marv Cook, who is a former University of Iowa All-American and ex-Pro Bowl NFL tight end.

Cook’s touchdown pass came on a perfectly executed flea-flicker that fooled St. Edmond. Regina ran a double reverse pass with a pitch back to Cook, who found Bryan Amelon wide open for a 61-yard play.

Jake Brinkman sparked the Regal ground charge, netting 116 yards and two scores on 11 totes. Riley Dixon also ran 10 times for 91 yards and a TD.

As a unit, District 6 champion Regina entered Friday second in 1A in both total offense (5,213 yards) and total points (526).

With his five PAT’s, Jacob Adam of the Regals went a perfect 72 of 72 on the year.

Harvey, Tristan Sitzmann, Hank Crimmins, Jimmy Averill, Konrad Laufersweiler, Caelan Burbank and Robby Burke all wrapped up their Gael careers on the gridiron. Over the past four years, SEHS compiled a 36-9 record.

“I didn’t have a clue we’d be able to have so much success, but it’s been a lot of fun,” said Tighe, whose squad was unranked in early Sept. and returned just four starters. “I really enjoyed this season. These guys have been an excellent group to coach. Everyone accepted their roles and bought in to the team concept.”

Prior to this fall, the Gaels had never advanced past the quarterfinals in 10 previous playoff trips. Tighe, the state’s all-time wins leader with 413, has guided 22 teams to the postseason, including eight at SEHS.

“Coach Tighe is a legend with all his wins, but he still keeps it simple,” Bocken said. “

“I think once you get the taste of (playing in the UNI-Dome), you want to come back again.”

Regina has captured the last two 1A titles after securing 2A championships in 2010 and 2011. The Regals suffered their last setback in the 2009 2A quarterfinals against rival Solon.

Cook improved to 88-5 through seven years at the helm. Regina is 33-6 all-time in 11 postseason appearances, with 10 of those coming in a row since 2004. Friday’s shutout by the Regals was their fifth of the season.