Gaels square off with Golden Bears

The lights get turned on at Dodger Stadium for the first official Friday night of the high school football season with defending Class 1A state runner-up St. Edmond welcoming Bishop Garrigan.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Gaels put together a school-best 13-1 season a year ago, leading Dick Tighe to his first state championship game appearance. Tighe, beginning his 61st season on the sidelines, has won a state-best 413 games.

“Everybody is ready to go and anxious to hit somebody and play football,” Tighe said. “Hopefully we’ll have some good weather and be able to get on track right off the bat.”

Tate O’Tool is the top offensive and defensive player back for the Gaels (0-0 overall), as the junior ran for 1,540 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. On defense, O’Tool had a team-high 100-plus tackles.

Surprisingly enough, O’Tool had no carries for St. Edmond in a 14-9 win last year vs. the Golden Bears. Current Iowa Central defensive starter Vinnie Harvey ran for 125 yards in the win.

Matthew Bocken returns, as well, after throwing for 700-plus yards and seven touchdowns. He’ll be joined by Landon Peed in the backfield, as the senior shifts over from split end.

Peed, who has caught 44 passes for 1,119 yards and 13 TDs over his last two years, has quickly grasped the concept of playing fullback under Tighe.

“I think our offense is going to be pretty potent, as we return many of the top players we had from last year,” Tighe said. “We’re going to work some new things in, especially having Landon in the backfield.”

O’Tool, Bocken and Peed are all returning starters from a defense that helped St. Edmond record a plus-35 advantage in the takeaway department and record three shutouts.

The Golden Bears (0-0) were district champions in Class A a year ago, advancing to the state quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion West Lyon. They finished the year 9-3 overall and 6-1 in district games.

“We know this is going to be a good test for us right off the bat,” BGHS head coach Marty Wadle said. “I expect St. Edmond to be pretty good this year, as they have a lot of kids back from a team that had a lot of success last year.

“Dick isn’t going to change a whole lot, so that makes it easier to do the prep work, but it doesn’t make the game easier.”

Wadle, entering his 23rd season with the Golden Bears, has won 154 career games, including 69 with Garrigan.

Reece Wadle returns for his senior season to direct the offense. Wadle passed for 531 yards with six touchdowns, completing 54-percent of his passes. He was also the second-leading rusher after racking up 548 yards and nine TDs.

Ben Vaske takes over at the No. 1 tailback position after running for 443 yards. Brayton Loss (926 yards) and Connor Langerman (498) have moved on.

Zac Kibby, the grandson of St. Edmond track coach Bill Kibby, is the top receiver back after catching 14 passes for 119 yards.

“We only graduated eight seniors, but we stayed pretty healthy last year so a lot of the kids we are counting on this season didn’t get much playing time,” said Wadle, who has directed Garrigan to the postseason 10 straight years and 14 times overall. “We are going to find out where we are at and what we need to work on to become a good football team.”

Vaske, Wadle, Kibby, Cameron Langerman and Andrew Miller anchor the defense.

St. Edmond and Garrigan, who are no longer North Central Conference rivals in other sports after the Golden Bears left for the North Iowa Conference, have met 53 times dating back to 1959. The Gaels have won seven in a row in the series, but Bishop Garrigan leads 35-18 overall.