ALGONA - As Iowa's all-time career prep wins leader on the gridiron, veteran head coach Dick Tighe clearly knows a quality product when he sees one.
If preseason workouts were any indication, the sky appears to be the limit for his 2012 St. Edmond football squad.
The Gaels' first test of the new campaign will come on the road here tonight in a non-district battle against Bishop Garrigan.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
"We've been practicing really well and don't have a single injury," said Tighe, who begins his 59th overall year on the sidelines with a 391-152-8 career mark. "We've had a lot more preparation for this game than we do most other ones. I feel like we'll be rested up and ready to go.
"The worst thing is to be tired and all worn out before the games even start."
WT: Matt Remsburg, 215, sr.
WG: Teddie Harvey, 165, jr.
C: Hank Crimmins, 175, jr.
SG: Dillon Nelson, 195, sr.
ST: Jacob Salisbury, 220, sr.
SE: Landon Peed, 165, so.
TE: Hank Lentsch, 175, sr.
WB: Aaron McElroy, 165, sr.
FB: Vinnie Harvey, 225, jr.
HB: Alex Mericle, 195, sr.
QB: David Flattery, 175, sr.
DE: V. Harvey
DT: Jimmy Averill, 175, jr.
LB: T. Harvey
CB: Matt Stumpf, 160, sr.
Golden Bear Offense
WR - Nathan Krieps, jr., 150; T - Corey Weydert, jr., 230; G - Adam Hamilton, sr., 195; C - Thomas Bradley, sr., 180; G - Bailey Kohlhaas, jr., 200; T - Neil Koob, jr., 260; TE - Chris Loss, jr., 195; FB - Jake Kollasch, sr., 195; TB - Brayton Loss, jr., 195; TB - Shawn Vaske, sr., 165; QB - Reece Wadle, so., 170.
Golden Bear Defense
DE - Hamilton; DT - Charlie Thilges, sr., 340; NG - Jonathan Berte, sr., 180; DT - Koob; DE - Andrew Miller, so., 200; LB - Kollasch; LB - Connor Langerman, jr., 195; SS - B. Loss; FS - C. Loss; CB - Victor Berte, sr., 150; CB - Ben Vaske, so., 165.
Last fall, SEHS advanced to the playoffs for a sixth time since 2004. The Gaels finished 9-2 overall and placed second in Class 2A, District 7 with a 6-1 mark.
Now, the green and white will lean on 12 returning starters, including six all-district nominees, to build on their recent success.
"On paper, we appear to be fairly strong, but we won't know for sure until we get under fire," Tighe said. "We expect to be able to move the ball on the ground. We have two big backs and an awful lot of speed.
"We'll definitely need our offensive line to come around, too."
After averaging 260 yards rushing and over 32 points per game a year ago, St. Edmond brings back a dynamic backfield trio of seniors Alex Mericle (TB) and Aaron McElroy (WB) and junior Vinnie Harvey (FB). That threesome combined for 1,158 yards and 17 scores on the ground in 2011.
Despite losing three of his four favorite targets to graduation, senior signal-caller David Flattery will also look to improve on his 658-yard, 10-touchdown effort from last season.
Tighe's main concern will be finding a capable replacement for first-team all-district and second-team INA all-state tailback Neil Flattery, who wrapped up his standout career as the school's all-time leading ground-gainer (2,524 yards).
As a senior, the 175-pound Flattery set a new single-season Gael rushing record for yards (1,615) and tied atop the touchdowns scored charts (23).
On the defensive side of the ball, SEHS is spearheaded by its two leading tacklers from a year ago in the senior linebacking duo of Teddie Harvey (156 stops in 2011) and Mericle (108). The Gaels forced 30 turnovers (22 interceptions and eight fumbles) and held opponents to only 12.6 points a night last season.
"I think we'll be fairly good again defensively," Tighe said. "We have two strong linebackers, a couple of solid linemen and almost our whole secondary is back."
Meanwhile, Marty Wadle's Golden Bears went 6-4 and 4-1 in 2011 and were narrowly ousted in the opening round of the Class A playoffs by Akron-Westfield. Garrigan, which has qualified for the postseason in each of the past eight years, produced 22.2 points and 297 yards per contest last fall behind the steady play of then-freshman quarterback Reece Wadle and junior Shawn Vaske.
Wadle - head coach Marty's son and the starting centerfielder on Garrigan's 1A state semifinalist baseball team this summer - accounted for 1,310 yards of total offense and 17 scores, while Vaske registered 643 yards and found paydirt five times on the ground.
Defensively, the Golden Bears return just one of their six top tacklers in senior linebacker Jake Kollasch (78 stops as a junior).
"We're in the same boat as everyone else and are anxious to see where we're at," Marty Wadle said. "There's going to be a good crowd. (Garrigan/St. Edmond) is the oldest standing Catholic rivalry, as the two schools have been playing each other since the late 1950s.
"It's been a while since we beat (the Gaels), so we'd like to get things switched back around."
St. Edmond, which will compete in 1A, District 2 this season, blanked Garrigan by a 28-0 count in its debut a year ago.