GILBERT - The St. Edmond football team's once-promising Class 2A playoff hopes now appear to be hanging only by a thread.
Needing a win to all but clinch their third consecutive postseason bid, the Gaels (4-4 overall, 2-4 in the league) failed to answer the call here Friday evening, dropping an 11-7 defensive slugfest to District 7 foe Gilbert (4-4, 3-3).
"We just got beat by a better team (last night)," said SEHS head coach Dick Tighe. "(Gilbert) was much more physical and did an outstanding job of defending us.
"We'll have to see what happens now as far as the playoffs go, but things obviously don't look too good."
All game long, St. Edmond struggled to find any holes in the suffocating Tiger defense. Gilbert held the Gaels off the scoreboard on all but one possesssion, suddenly leaving Tighe's program on the outside looking in with the postseason hunt winding down.
In the opening half, the green and white managed just 54 yards rushing on 27 carries. Andrew Steinkamp, a 190-pound senior fullback, supplied the Gaels with a rare bright spot offensively with a 15-yard scamper to paydirt early in the second quarter, pushing SEHS briefly in front. From there, however, Gilbert eventually responded just over six minutes later on a back-breaking 83-yard punt return for a touchdown by Christian Reed. The Tigers then immediately gained the edge on a two-point conversion run from bruising 6-foot-4, 230-pounder Cory Morrissey.
St. Edmond 0 7 0 0 - 7
Gilbert 0 11 0 0 - 11
St. Edmond - Andrew Steinkamp (15-yard run), 10:29 left second. Nick Clark kick.
Gilbert - Christian Reed (83-yard punt return), 4:18 left second. Cory Morrissey conversion run.
Gilbert - Jake Beste (29-yard field goal), :41 left second.
- - -
Rushing - St. Edmond: Andrew Steinkamp 14-45, Anthony Flattery 8-28, Neil Flattery 10-25, David Flattery 2-(minus-8), Nick Clark 6-(minus-10); Gilbert: Cory Morrissey 22-62, Christian Reed 7-36, Jordan Knock 5-16, Luke Kerns 2-14, Carlton Jones 1-9, Jacob Zenor 2-(minus-10).
Passing - St. Edmond: Clark 0-2-0-0, D. Flattery 0-4-1-0, A. Flattery 0-1-1-0; Gilbert: Knock 6-14-0-76, Zenor 2-4-0-21.
Receiving - Gilbert: Reed 5-52, Brian Owings 3-45.
"We got bit by our old bugaboo on the punt return," Tighe said. "That play turned out to be a huge turning point."
Following another strong defensive stand, the Tigers tacked on an insurance score on their next drive when Jake Beste drilled a 29-yard field goal with just 41 seconds left before the break.
"Early on, we had our chances," said Tighe. "It was still anyone's game at the half."
Seeking new life after the intermission, the Gaels continued to find tough sledding on the ground. St. Edmond recorded only one first down in the second half and ran just 19 plays from scrimmage to 35 for Gilbert.
"We did a decent job of taking 10 (Morrissey) away, but their (reserve) sophomore quarterback (Jordan) Knock came in (for starter Jacob Zenor) and made the difference with his scrambling ability and arm," said Tighe. "We just couldn't match up against their size on the line."
The Tigers had a pair of golden opportunities to extend their advantage in the final frame, but misfired on field goals from 33 and 36 yards out, respectively. Two late Gael posessions ended in costly interceptions, however, allowing Gilbert to survive with the pivotal victory.
On the evening, SEHS compiled only six first downs and 80 yards of total offense - all coming on the ground, while the Tigers accumulated 224 yards - 127 rushing and 97 passing.
Steinkamp was the top rusher for the Gaels with 45 yards on 14 attempts.
St. Edmond closes out its regular season, hosting South Hardin on Friday.