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Gaels ready for Top-10 clash

No. 8 St. Edmond visits fifth-rated PCM

October 31, 2011
By JOSH MEYER - Messenger Sports Writer (sports@messengernews.net) , Messenger News

MONROE - No opponent this season has had luck solving fifth-ranked PCM-Monroe on the gridiron.

No. 8 St. Edmond will attempt to change all of that and play the role of Halloween spoiler here tonight.

The unbeaten Mustangs (10-0 overall) and Gaels (9-1) square off in an intriguing Class 2A second-round playoff football contest.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

"We got three videos on (PCM), and they're a lot like us," said SEHS head coach Dick Tighe, who sports a career mark of 391-151-8 in 58 years on the sidelines. "They run the I-Formation (offense) part of the time, also get in the spread and have a pretty good quarterback and running back. Just by looking at their linemen, they don't seem to be overly big, but they're all kind of tall, rangy and well-built."

In their playoff opener against Clarinda on Wednesday, the District 7 runner-up Gaels - who have qualified for the postseason in six out of the past eight years - pulled away from a once tightly contested affair in the second half for a comfortable 35-12 home triumph, which improved their playoff record to 3-7 in program history.

Workhorse Neil Flattery continued his impressive senior campaign for the green and white, producing 211 yards on a personal-best 43 carries. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound speedster now holds the single-season school mark for most rushing yards (1,543), eclipsing the previous high of 1,472 set by Rick McCarville in 1983.

Flattery also ranks right near the top of the SEHS all-time lists in career rushing yards (2,452), most rushing attempts for a season (233) and most rushing touchdowns in a year (22).

"Flattery had a great game (Wednesday) and really broke loose in the second half," Tighe said. "We had tough going to start with against all (the Clarinda) stunting, but I guess we still picked up the most first downs (26) and yardage (421) we've had all season."

Greg Bonnett's District 8 champion Mustangs have hardly been tested this fall, outscoring their foes by a lopsided combined margin of 436-85. PCM-Monroe's closest outcome was a 33-14 victory at Pella Christian in Week 6.

"My guys really came into this year working hard and buying into what we want to do offensively and defensively," said Bonnett, who is in his first year at the helm of his alma mater after serving a previous stint as linebackers coach and defensive coordinator at West Des Moines Dowling. "Their commitment has definitely been the key to our success."

Hutch Burns, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior, is the catalyst in the Mustang ground barrage, churning out 1,379 yards and 22 touchdowns on 183 attempts. Burns has accounted for at least 221 yards rushing in three out of the past four games.

Despite being sidelined for two contests late in the regular season due to a hamstring injury, PCM senior signal-caller Joel Wiggins has completed 55 of 93 passes for 899 yards, including 12 endzone strikes and only two interceptions. Senior Jordan Van Roekel (24 catches, 406 yards, 7 scores), junior Ethan Kain (22-354-7) and senior Bo Clymer (17-359-6) form a talented receiving corps for the Mustangs, who went 6-4 a year ago and were ousted in their postseason opener.

The Gael defensive unit has also been stout nearly all year long, as the green and white are yielding just 12.2 points a night and have notched 24 sacks, 20 picks and six fumble recoveries. Tackle leaders for SEHS are junior linebackers Teddie Harvey (145) and Alex Mericle (99).

"They've got a really good running back in Flattery and a legendary coach," said Bonnett, who was a former star linebacker on Northwest Missouri State's back-to-back NCAA Div. II national title teams in 1998 and '99. "They're really sound in what they do, and I think they'll come out and play physical both on offense and defense."

This season's playoff appearance for the Mustangs marks their ninth in school history and sixth in the last seven years. PCM reached the 2A state semifinals in basketball as well last March.

Injury-wise, St. Edmond's lineup could possibly receive a boost this evening with the return of do-it-all senior Nick Clark, whose status remains up in the air after sustaining a bone bruise on his left foot in a Week 9 49-7 drubbing of South Hardin.

Tonight's winner advances to Monday's 2A state quarterfinals to face either undefeated West Marshall (10-0) or 2010 state runner-up North Polk (8-2).

Contact Josh Meyer at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net