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Tighe goes for win No. 400

Gaels at home for playoff opener

October 24, 2012
By JOSH MEYER - Messenger Sports Writer ( , Messenger News

Rarely has St. Edmond been better equipped for a deep postseason run.

Making their seventh playoff appearance on the gridiron since 2004 alone, the fifth-ranked Gaels (8-1 overall) prepare to take on Hull Western Christian (4-5) here on Tuesday for a Class 1A first-round matchup.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Dodger Stadium.

Article Photos

Messenger photo by Dale Wooten

Dick Tighe instructs his St. Edmond Gaels before a game earlier this season.

"I think our guys are fired up and ready to go, but our big problem right now is a lot of injuries," said SEHS head coach Dick Tighe, who needs a win this evening to become only the 12th prep football coach ever nationally to reach the 400 mark for his career. "We've had another good week of practice and should have a little momentum.

"Playing at home is nice too, because we don't have to travel and always have a great crowd."

Since dropping a tight defensive slugfest to eventual unbeaten District 2 champion IKM-Manning in Week 6, the Gaels managed to rebound with three straight victories to close out their regular-season, including a 35-0 shutout of Eagle Grove last Friday.

Fact Box


St. Edmond's Dick Tighe is one win away from becoming the first coach in Iowa high school football history to reach 400 career victories.

Cathedral Boys High School

(Hamilton, Ontario Canada)


7 years: 41-19-3

1954: 7-1-1

1955: 4-4-1

1956: 9-0-0

1957: 4-4-1

1958: 5-3-0

1959: 7-3-0

1960: 5-4-0

St. Edmond

1 year: 4-4

1961: 4-4



5 years: 27-13-4

1962: 5-2-1

1963: 6-2-1

1964: 6-3

1965: 3-5-1

1966: 7-1-1

Webster City


31 years: 220-72-1

1967: 8-1

1968: 4-4-1

1969: 5-4

1970: 9-0

1971: 7-2

1972: 7-2

1973: 8-1

1974: 6-3

1975: 6-3

1976: 6-3

1977: 7-2

1978: 6-3

1979: 6-3

1980: 8-1

1981: 8-1

1982: 9-1

1983: 10-1

1984: 8-2

1985: 10-1

1986: 10-1

1987: 8-1

1988: 7-2

1989: 6-3

1990: 9-2

1991: 8-2

1992: 4-5

1993: 5-4

1994: 8-2

1995: 6-3

1996: 8-3

1997: 3-6

Iowa Falls

1998-2001 (co-coach)

4 years: 32-11

1998: 11-1

1999: 10-2

2000: 6-3

2001: 5-5

St. Edmond


11 years: 75-35

2002: 3-6

2003: 4-5

2004: 8-3

2005: 11-1

2006: 7-3

2007: 6-3

2008: 9-2

2009: 5-5

2010: 5-4

2011: 9-2

2012: 8-1

Career: 399-154-8

Against the Eagles, star tailback Alex Mericle delivered 116 yards and three scores on 18 carries, setting a new single-season SEHS record for rushing touchdowns (24). Mericle has accumulated 1,483 yards this year - the third-best single-season Gael figure.

The 190-pound senior, who has been battling a nagging foot injury, ranks sixth in school history with 2,130 yards for his career. Mericle is second in 1A in attempts (234), tied for third in scoring (148 points) and is sixth in total rushing yards.

"Alex hasn't practiced this week, but I suspect he'll be fine once gametime rolls around," Tighe said. "We also might need a few other guys to step up for us now and take some of the workload off (Mericle)."

Junior fullback Vinnie Harvey and senior wingbacks Matt Stumpf and Aaron McElroy have combined for 969 rushing yards and reached paydirt on nine occasions for District 2 runner-up St. Edmond, which is seventh in 1A in total yards (2,635) on the ground.

Gael senior signal-caller David Flattery has thrown for 468 yards, including six endzone strikes and two picks. Sophomore Landon Peed has collected a team-high 15 catches for 341 yards and four touchdowns.

"We've really been working on our passing game the past few weeks," said Tighe, who is guiding his 21st team to the playoffs in 59 seasons on the sidelines. "We'll have to see how things go, but we might have to mix things up a little more (offensively)."

On the defensive side of the ball, SEHS has registered 22 takeaways, pitched three shutouts and allowed just nine points per contest. Senior linebacker Teddie Harvey leads 1A and ranks third in the entire state in tackles (149).

The Wolfpack own a 3-3 all-time postseason record from their three previous trips - all coming since 2008. Western Christian, which started its season with three consecutive setbacks, faced six playoff teams this year with a combined 40-14 mark. In their wins, the Wolfpack are averaging 33.3 points a night compared to just 8.6 in their losses.

Travis Kooima's squad, which placed third in District 1 at 4-2, went 2-3 on the road this season.

"They have a balanced offense (1,140 yards passing and 1,130 yards rushing), with a basic set of two tight ends and wideouts both ways," Tighe said of Western Christian.

Signal-caller Drew Van Maanen of the Wolfpack has gone 87-for-177 through the air for 1,116 yards, with seven touchdowns and 12 picks. Jeffrey Granstra (25 receptions, 167 yards, 0 TD), Jordan Van Maanen (24-318-2) and Ethan Fenchel (20-339-3) have been the prime targets.

Drew Van Sloten is the top rusher for Western Christian, accounting for 701 yards and eight scores on 154 totes. Van Sloten has eclipsed the 100-yard barrier in three of the past four outings.

Granstra anchors the Wolfpack defensive unit with 87 stops and a pair of fumble recoveries. As a team, Western Christian has forced 19 turnovers.

"It's always better to play from ahead than behind, so hopefully we can get an early lead and put pressure on them," said Tighe. "Getting (career victory) No. 400 is secondary to us winning the game."

Aside from Mericle, McElroy (sprained ankle), junior Hank Crimmins (concussion) and sophomore Nick Hindt (sore knee) are each listed as questionable on this evening's injury report.

St. Edmond is 21-4 at Dodger Stadium since 2008, including 4-1 this season. The Gaels are 3-3 in playoff openers, dating back to the 2004 campaign and are 3-8 all-time in eight other postseason ventures. SEHS has outscored its opponents this year, 303-63.

The St. Edmond/Western Christian winner advances to meet either No. 3 Emmetsburg (8-1) or Ridge View (4-5) in 1A second-round action Monday at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined.