MAPLETON - What's been an emotionally-challenging week for veteran head coach Dick Tighe and the St. Edmond football team can end on a relatively upbeat note tonight.
Aiming to keep their perfect record intact, the second-ranked Gaels (2-0 overall) will square off with Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto in a Class 1A, District 2 opener.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Through two games this season, SEHS has outscored its opponents by a lopsided combined margin of 75-14, including a convincing 42-14 home triumph over then-No. 8 (Class A) Mason City Newman last Friday.
"Those were two good warmup games (against Newman and Bishop Garrigan) and not just cupcakes," said Tighe, who missed last week's contest due to the passing of his wife, Margot. "We managed to not only beat them, but we were dominant score-wise, which was kind of encouraging.
"We'll have to have our heads on straight again (this evening) to get the job done."
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.
Alex Mericle, a 205-pound senior, propelled the Gaels a week ago with 115 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Mericle has been the workhorse so far in the punishing SEHS ground charge with 302 yards and five scores on 42 totes.
Junior Vinnie Harvey (22-119-1) and senior Aaron McElroy (13-91) are the other top backfield threats for St. Edmond, which is averaging a productive 7.3 yards per rush.
"We've got two big runners (Mericle and Harvey) that can go smashing right at (the opposing defenses)," Tighe said. "I still wish we could get our passing game going a little more (SEHS is only 2-for-11 passing for 19 yards and a touchdown this season), but it'll keep getting better."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Gaels are surrendering just 218 yards of total offense and have forced nine turnovers - six interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Senior linebacker Teddie Harvey (40) and classmate defensive end Hank Lentsch (27) lead SEHS in tackles.
"I think our defense has played especially well," said Tighe, who is seeking his 393rd career win on Friday. "We've still got to eliminate some foolish penalties and those kinds of things, but we had two interceptions for touchdowns and a blocked kick for a safety last week against a (defending state semifinalist) Newman team that wanted to be physical."
The Rams (2-0) appear to have plenty of momentum on their side as well after notching blowout victories over West Monona (49-6) and Westwood (49-16). Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto, which finished just 1-8 overall and 0-6 in 2A, District 2 last fall, has already racked up 1,032 yards of total offense - 701 rushing and 331 passing - on the year.
"I know (the Rams) are undefeated, but I don't think they've played anyone real ferocious yet," Tighe said. "They run out of the shotgun (offensive formation) a lot and have a couple of guys that are pretty fast. We're going to try and establish our physical presence like we did in our first two games."
MV-A-O quarterback Ryan Dougherty has gone 15-for-24 through the air for 283 yards and a pair of scores. Tanner Petersen is the top receiver for the Rams with six catches for 97 yards.
Dougherty has also accounted for a team-high 225 rushing yards, reaching paydirt six times on 38 attempts.
Defensively, Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto allows only 158 yards per game and has received two fumble recoveries from linebacker Kyle Hardisty.