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Gaels host Garrigan

Ranked clash opens year

August 26, 2011
By JOSH MEYER - Messenger Sports Writer (sports@messengernews.net) , Messenger News

All tireless hours of hard work and preparation aside, another new season has finally arrived for the St. Edmond football team.

Dick Tighe's 10th-ranked (Class 2A) Gaels (0-0 overall) welcome long-time nemesis and No. 10 (Class A) Bishop Garrigan (0-0) tonight for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Dodger Stadium.

"We've had a decent week of practice and have just been reviewing everything we want to do," said Tighe, who enters his 58th year on the sidelines as Iowa's all-time prep wins leader and ranks 15th nationally with 382. "All phases of the game have looked good and seem to be clicking, so we're pretty well set and ready to go."

Last year, SEHS failed to make the playoffs for only the second time since 2004 and finished 5-4 overall and 3-4 in 2A, District 7 play. Now, the Gaels will bank on 13 returning starters to restake their claim as a perennial postseason contender.

"I've reminded our kids of how we struggled at different times last year," Tighe said. "For us to be more successful, we have to eliminate our mistakes and improve in all areas.

"Staying away from injuries is always critical, too."

Fact Box

PROBABLE STARTERS

Gael Offense

LT: Austin Walker, 200, sr.

LG: Teddie Harvey, 165, jr.

C: Dillon Nelson, 180, jr.

RG: Jacob Salisbury, 223, jr.

RT: Ryan Rodenborn, 230, sr.

SE: Nick Clark, 160, sr.

TE: Patrick Champa, 200, sr.

WB: Matt Stumpf, 150, jr.

FB: Alex Mericle, 190, jr.

HB: Neil Flattery, 190, sr.

QB: David Flattery, 175, jr.

K: Clark

Gael Defense

DE: Champa

DT: Rodenborn

NG: Vinnie Harvey, 205, so.

DT: Nelson

DE: Ross Taets, 190, sr.

LB: Mericle

LB: T. Harvey

CB: N. Flattery

CB: Stumpf

SS: Aaron McElroy, 155, jr.

FS: Clark

P: McElroy

After generating 199.4 yards rushing and 26.0 points per contest in 2010, SEHS has elected to scrap its bruising wishbone offensive assault in favor of the more conventional I-formation. Juniors David Flattery (QB), Alex Mericle (FB), senior Neil Flattery (TB) and junior Matt Stumpf (WB) will comprise the reliable Gael backfield.

Gone from a year ago are first team all-district selections in fullback Andrew Steinkamp and tailback Anthony Flattery, who combined for 993 yards rushing and found paydirt 20 times.

"We need to be able to mix things up a little better between the run and pass," said Tighe. "Opposing teams won't be able to confine us as much as they have in the past."

David Flattery, a 175-pound junior, will inherit the reins at signal-caller in place of senior Nick Clark, who has since moved to wide receiver. David threw for 109 yards and a touchdown in a reserve role as a sophomore.

"David's a good ball handler," Tighe said. "He'll be able to stretch the field vertically for us."

Neil Flattery accounted for a team-high 593 yards and six touchdowns on 98 carries as a junior. The 190-pound speedster's top effort last fall came in a 35-0 home shutout against Baxter CMB, where he delivered 121 yards on only 10 attempts.

Flattery also produced 119 yards and a pair of scores in a 21-8 season-opening triumph over Garrigan.

"Having a veteran like Neil back there (at tailback) will be a big key," Tighe said. "He's a three-year starter with the ability to make people miss with his moves in the open field."

Mericle and Stumpf will each be given every opportunity to shine as well. Mericle contributed 46 yards and reached the endzone once in limited duty as a sophomore.

On the defensive side of the ball, St. Edmond's strong suit will clearly be its secondary, led by free safety Clark (27 tackles and 3 picks in 2010) and left cornerback Neil Flattery (31 and 1). The Gaels forced a total of nine turnovers (7 picks and 2 fumble recoveries) and allowed 12.6 points a night last season.

"We want to develop an attacking style defense this year instead of just sitting back and waiting," said Tighe. "We're hoping to make big plays and get more heat on the quarterback."

The Golden Bears went 6-4 and 4-1 in 2010 and were narrowly ousted (27-26) in the first round of the Class A playoffs by District 2 foe West Sioux. A year ago, Garrigan averaged 26.4 points and 309 yards per game behind the consistent play of seniors Jacob Behr and Kevin Elbert, who chalked up over 1,800 yards and 23 scores on the ground.

"We kind of know their personnel and how they like to line up on offense and defense," Tighe said of the Golden Bears. "They've got some experienced guys and some new people, too. Their offense is pretty diversified."

Grant Reding, a senior, will now serve as a catalyst for Garrigan after rushing for 298 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2010. Reding was also second on the team with 70 tackles as a junior. Also back for Garrigan are senior Alex Boisjolie and fellow classmate Zach Keith. Boisjolie anchored the Golden Bear defensive unit last season with 87 stops from his linebacker spot. Keith turned in 65 tackles as well at linebacker, including a team-high 36 solo.

Contact Josh Meyer at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net