ELDORA - Any worries of St. Edmond being caught looking ahead were quickly put to rest here on Friday.
Showing plenty signs of a football team poised for a deep playoff run, the No. 9 (Class 2A) Gaels (8-1 overall, 6-1 in the district) closed out their regular season in style with a 49-7 pounding of overwhelmed District 7 foe South Hardin (2-7, 1-6).
"We were ready from the start and pretty much accomplished all the things we wanted to do," said SEHS head coach Dick Tighe, who upped his state-leading career wins total to 390 last evening. "Our guys really controlled the line of scrimmage, which was almost a blueprint of last week (a 40-0 Senior Night win over Gilbert)."
Playing on a crisp night, the Gaels reached the endzone on six of their seven first-half possessions and put on a clinic from beginning to end. In the opening 24 minutes alone, St. Edmond racked up 293 yards of total offense compared to just 44 for the home squad.
Of the eight Tiger drives before the intermission, four resulted in turnovers and two more ended with three-and-outs.
"I thought we blocked extremely well up front and were able to move the ball almost at will," Tighe said. "(South Hardin) has some big kids, but they're not the most physical team and struggle with their tackling technique."
St. Edmond 13 29 0 7- 49
South Hardin 0 0 7 0- 7
St. Edmond - Neil Flattery (2-yard run), 9:26 left first. Nick Clark kick.
St. Edmond - N. Flattery (28-yard run), 7:15 left first. Kick failed.
St. Edmond - Alex Mericle (15-yard run), 10:25 left second. N. Flattery conversion run.
St. Edmond - N. Flattery (41-yard run), 9:09 left second. Clark kick.
St. Edmond - N. Flattery (11-yard run), 5:07 left second. Clark kick.
St. Edmond - Mericle (57-yard run), 1:35 left second. Clark kick.
South Hardin - Tyler Petersen (7-yard run), 4:16 left third. Dayton Balvanz kick.
St. Edmond - Vinnie Harvey (9-yard run), 6:25 left fourth. David Flattery kick.
Rushing - St. Edmond: Alex Mericle 13-143, Neil Flattery 14-131, Vinnie Harvey 12-98, Aaron McElroy 6-13, David Flattery 1 (minus-2). South Hardin: Tyler Petersen 9-41, Levi Prosser 5-4, Dylin Wilkie 1-2, Ben Ferris 8-(minus-1), TEAM 1-(minus-4).
Passing - St. Edmond: David Flattery 3-8-0-25. South Hardin: Prosser 10-21-3-86, Balvanz 1-1-0-3.
Receiving - St. Edmond: Clark 2-35. South Hardin: Balvanz 5-45, Ferris 2-22, Petersen 2-22, Blake Baker 1-3, Luke Rotgers 1-(minus-3).
Alex Mericle, a 190-pound junior, ignited the bruising green and white ground charge with a career-high 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 13 carries. Mericle delivered both of his scores in the second quarter on 15- and 57-yard scampers.
"I thought Mericle ran the ball awfully hard (Friday)," said Tighe. "(The Tiger) defense dictated that we could give the ball to our fullback up the middle."
Senior Neil Flattery also contributed 131 yards and found paydirt four times for St. Edmond, while sophomore Vinnie Harvey notched 98 yards and a touchdown of his own. Flattery, who has now accounted for 2,251 rushing yards and 29 scores in his varsity career, added a two-point conversion run in the second period as well.
"Of course, Neil looked good again like always," Tighe said. "Vinnie also came in and did an excellent job in the second half."
Making an impact defensively for the stingy Gaels - who forced six takeaways on the night - were Harvey (sack and fumble recovery), seniors Anthony Chavez (fumble recovery), Will Smith (fumble revovery), Mericle (interception), junior Matt Stumpf (interception) and senior Joe Winge (interception).
"I knew if we let them get off to a good start that they could make (the game) a struggle," said Tighe of the Tigers. "We created a couple of turnovers right off the bat, which really seemed to take the wind out of their sails."
Going against several SEHS reserves and with the clock running continuously the entire second half due to the 35-point differential rule, South Hardin finally broke through on its initial drive after the break when junior Tyler Petersen capped an eight-play, 58-yard march with a 7-yard dash to the endzone.
Despite the win, the Gaels received a scare when starting senior split end/free safety/kicker Nick Clark was forced out of action early due to an apparent ankle injury. Clark was the top receiver for St. Edmond Friday, hauling in three catches for 25 yards. He also went 4-for-5 on PAT attempts.
The Gaels will now host Clarinda (6-3) in first-round 2A postseason play on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Cardinals clinched a third-place District 8 finish last evening with a 45-6 rout of rival Shenandoah.