Second-ranked St. Edmond's hopes of running the table on its way to a Class 1A, District 2 football crown faces a possible roadblock tonight in the form of No. 8 IKM-Manning.
Kickoff for the Gael Homecoming game is set for 7 p.m. at Dodger Stadium.
Last Friday, SEHS (5-0 overall, 3-0 in the district) overcame a rocky second half enroute to a 26-7 road triumph over Ridge View. This season marks only the fifth time in school history the Gaels have opened their campaign with five straight victories, but the third under legendary head coach Dick Tighe in the past eight years, equalling 2005 and '11.
"With the ownership of the district lead at stake, all the ingredients are there for a great game between two undefeated teams," said Tighe, who ranks first in state history with 396 career wins. "It's also our Homecoming, so we should play well. We're fortunate to be able to play our toughest game at home. Our schedule has been ideal this year."
Tailback Alex Mericle powered the green and white again a week ago with a career-high 233 yards and three touchdowns on 32 totes. Mericle currently ranks first in 1A in scoring (102 points) and fourth in total rushing yards (924). The 195-pound senior workhorse has carried the ball 132 times this season, averaging 7.0 yards per attempt. Mericle needs just six more rushing touchdowns to tie the program single-season record.
"Mericle hasn't been able to practice this week because of a sore foot," Tighe said. "He's still going to play, but he hasn't done anything yet. I suspect his conditioning will probably be sort of suspect."
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.
Junior Vinnie Harvey and senior Aaron McElroy have been the other top offensive threats for the Gaels, combining for 549 yards and four scores on the ground. As a team, St. Edmond is No. 3 in 1A and 12th in all of Iowa in total rushing yards (1,783).
On the defensive side of the ball, the stout Gaels are yielding just 8.2 points per contest. St. Edmond has forced 16 takeaways - nine interceptions and seven fumble recoveries - for a plus-7 turnover margin. Senior linebacker Teddie Harvey leads 1A and is eighth in the state in tackles (85) for SEHS, which has outscored its opponents this season, 205-41.
The Wolves (5-0, 2-0) thumped Sioux Central by a 35-6 count in their previous outing. IKM-Manning, which has reached the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, comes in producing 30.8 points and 334 yards a night.
"We have to be better than we were in the second half last week, when we just kind of stumbled around and lost our intensity (the Gaels fumbled three times and failed to score in the last two quarters Friday)," said Tighe. "Offensively, IKM likes to run out of the double-wing formation. They throw the ball occasionally, but that's not their first preference."
Sam Wegner (56 carries, 355 yards, 2 TD), Devontay Hocken (65-272-3), Cody Eischeid (38-270-4) and Scott Opperman (32-221-3) are the main weapons in the balanced ground attack for the Wolves, who rank 14th in 1A with 1,328 rushing yards. Opperman has also completed 18 of 35 passes for 342 yards, including five endzone strikes and a pair of picks. Eischeid is the go-to receiver for IKM-Manning, hauling in five catches for 169 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, the Wolves have collected eight takeaways. Shayne Wiese, a 178-pound senior linebacker, has registered a team-high 72 stops, which is fifth best in 1A.
IKM-Manning earned its non-district wins against OA-BCIG (24-19), Logan-Magnolia (26-7) and Tri-Center (49-27). Those three foes own a combined overall mark of 11-4 on the year.