EAGLE GROVE - Just three previous times in school history has the St. Edmond football team managed an unbeaten regular season.
With a non-district victory tonight against winless Eagle Grove, the fifth-ranked Gaels (8-0 overall) can head into the Class 1A playoffs perfect once again.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
"Sometimes these types of games before the playoffs can kind of be a struggle, but the main thing is getting through without any injuries," said SEHS head coach Dick Tighe, who will turn 83 years old today. "I want to play the starters at least half the game for conditioning purposes, but I also want to give our JV kids some reps.
"Hopefully, we can just get the darn thing in the win column and move on."
Last Friday, the Gaels dodged a bullet with a 28-12 comeback road triumph over Sioux Central to clinch an outright District 2 title. After trailing twice early in the game, St. Edmond eventually reeled off 21 unanswered points.
Vinnie Harvey, a senior, delivered 142 yards rushing and two touchdowns for the Gaels in Week 8, while sophomore T.J. O'Tool contributed 92 yards and one score of his own. Quarterback Matthew Bocken, a junior, also hooked up with classmate Landon Peed on a 10-yard touchdown strike.
"(The Rebels) were actually picked to win the district by some people in the preseason, and they came out scrappy and really blocked well," Tighe said. "I thought we just kind of wore them down, though, as the game went on."
Harvey, a 225-pound fullback, is currently second in 1A in rushing scores (21) and 11th in total rushing yards (1,009). He has eclipsed the 100-yard barrier on six occasions this season, including a career-high 182 in a 35-0 shutout of Pocahontas Area in Week 4.
O'Tool has added 663 yards and reached paydirt eight times on the ground, while junior Michael Faiferlick is next in line with 364 yards and one TD.
Bocken has gone 14-for-29 through the air for 366 yards, with five scores and one pick. Peed has pulled down 13 catches for 351 yards and five touchdowns.
"We might try to throw the ball a little more (this evening), which we could need later on down the road," said Tighe. "The most important thing is to play hard, execute well and try to be more consistent in all areas."
St. Edmond's stingy defensive unit has pitched three shutouts and forced 16 takeaways this year. The Gaels have outscored their opponents on the season, 270-54.
Looking to snap an 18-game losing streak, dating back to the 2011 campaign, the Eagles (0-8) are coming off a lopsided 64-8 setback at South Hamilton. In stark contrast to SEHS, Eagle Grove has been outscored through eight games by a combined margin of 391-67.
"They try to run the ball most of the time, but they do throw a little, too," Tighe said of the Eagles. "They run a midline option (offense) with a couple of wingbacks and also get in the pistol some. It looks like they can move the ball at times, but they just have trouble stopping anybody."
Senior Miguel Pacheco (51 carries, 244 yards, 3 TD) and junior Devon Omvig (67-206-2) are the top threats for Eagle Grove. Omvig has also completed 27 of 83 passes for 373 yards, including one TD and five interceptions. Zach Ploeger, a senior, has hauled in a team-high 19 receptions for 310 yards and a score.
This year's upcoming postseason appearance will be the eighth for the Gaels since 2004. St. Edmond, which is 26-4 overall since the start of the 2011 campaign, will most likely host District 1 foe Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn (4-4) in a first-round home playoff game Wednesday night.
Prior to this fall, SEHS also went unbeaten during the regular season in 1978, '83 and 2005. Tighe, the state's all-time wins leader, owns a career record of 408-154-8 in 60 years on the sidelines.