EMMETSBURG - Pulling off a road playoff upset requires precise execution in all phases of the game.
The St. Edmond football team discovered that the hard way Monday night.
Held in check offensively from start to finish, the fifth-ranked Gaels (9-2 overall) saw their seventh postseason appearance since 2004 come to a bitter end, dropping a 28-0 Class 1A second-round decision to No. 3 Emmetsburg (10-1) at Duane Twait Field.
Unable to find any holes in the swarming E-Hawk defensive unit, SEHS was limited to a season-low 142 yards of total offense, including 116 on the ground. The District 2 runner-up Gaels, who saw their four-game win streak snapped in the loss, also committed four costly turnovers - three interceptions and a fumble.
"(Emmetsburg) was much better defensively than what I anticipated going in," said SEHS head coach Dick Tighe, who ranks first in state history and 12th all-time nationally with 400 career victories. "I really felt we would be able to move the ball on them at times, but we couldn't ever establish any long drives or break any big plays. Just like in our (7-6 Week 6) loss to (District 2 champion) IKM, (the E-Hawks) were a little more physical than we were (last evening)."
Senior Alex Mericle provided an offensive bright spot for the Gaels, producing 83 yards on 26 carries. Mericle closed out his banner year with a single-season school record of 1,791 rushing yards. The 190-pound tailback also established new program marks for single-season attempts (289) and career scores (38). Mericle finished third in SEHS history with 2,438 yards on the ground.
First Downs 1013
Passing Yards 260
Total Offense 142404
St. Edmond 0 0 0 0 - 0
Emmetsburg 6 8 0 14 - 28
Emmetsburg Andrew Wellik (73-yard run), 4:56 left first. Kick failed.
Emmetsburg Wellik (1-yard run), 10:43 left second. Wellik run.
Emmetsburg Wellik (38-yard run), 11:23 left fourth. Nick Merwald kick.
Emmetsburg Wellik (89-yard run), 8:55 left fourth. Merwald kick.
Rushing - St. Edmond: Alex Mericle 26-83, Vinnie Harvey 9-36, Matt Stumpf 1-3, Aaron McElroy 1-0, David Flattery 6-(minus-6). Emmetsburg: Andrew Wellik 31-358, Cody Henderson 9-39, Allen Jensen 3-8, Austin McCartan 1-3, TEAM 1-0, Brady Christensen 1-(minus-1), Jake Jackson 4-(minus-3).
Passing - St. Edmond: Flattery 4-9-3-26. Emmetsburg: Jackson 0-1-0-0.
Receiving - St. Edmond: Stumpf 2-13, Hank Lentsch 1-10, Mericle 1-3.
Vinnie Harvey, a Gael junior fullback, added 36 yards rushing on nine carries, including a 15-yard jaunt in the third quarter for St. Edmond's longest play from scrimmage. On the evening, the Gaels punted seven times and only crossed midfield on three occasions, with two of those coming early in the first half.
"I thought our defense played outstanding (Monday)," said EHS head coach Mike Dunlap. "We've continued to improve both offensively and defensively throughout the season."
E-Hawk senior tailback Andrew Wellik ignited the state's top rushing attack with a career-high 358 yards and four touchdowns on 31 totes. Wellik, who entered last night's game first in 1A and third in the state in total yards on the ground, has now rushed for 2,369 yards and found paydirt 32 times on the year. Wellik reached the endzone from 73, 1, 38 and 89 yards out. Eight of his runs Monday were at least 15 yards.
"Andrew runs hard and has the speed to break big runs," Dunlap said. "I thought our line also did an excellent job of controlling the line of scrimmage."
Jake Jackson (two interceptions), Nick Schany (interception), Tyler Henson (fumble recovery) and Tayler Wegner (sack) anchored Emmetsburg defensively. Jackson has now collected a state-best 10 picks on the season.
For the Gaels, Vinnie Harvey registered a sack.
Mericle, Aaron McElroy, David Flattery, Matt Stumpf, Jared Prebeck, Dillon Nelson, Eddie Harvey, Jacob Salisbury, Lane Florey, Teddie Harvey, Matt Remsburg and Hank Lentsch each wrapped up their Gael careers on the gridiron. Over the past four years, SEHS notched a 28-13 overall mark. The green and white are now 4-10 all-time in 10 playoff trips.
Despite the shutout, the E-Hawks received a scare when junior tailback Brady Christensen was forced out of action late in the first quarter with an apparent left leg injury.
Emmetsburg, which is making a state record 37th postseason trip and owns nine state titles from three different classes, earned its 71st-ever playoff triumph Monday. The E-Hawks, whose lone setback this season came against unbeaten and top-ranked (2A) Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, improved to 32-2 at Duane Twait Field since the start of the 2008 campaign.
"I definitely think (the E-Hawks) have the talent to make the finals," said Tighe. "They're just a great team all the way around."
Up next for Emmetsburg is a 1A quarterfinal matchup at unbeaten and fourth-ranked IKM-Manning (11-0) Friday at 7 p.m. The Wolves advanced by downing South O'Brien, 28-17.