It's already been a celebration-filled week for the eighth-ranked (Class 2A) St. Edmond football team.
Tonight, the Gaels (8-1 overall) hope to continue the party when they face Clarinda (6-3) in the substate round at Dodger Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
On Monday, 2,000-yard rusher Neil Flattery celebrated his 18th birthda, while head coach Dick Tighe turned 81 on Tuesday. A win over the Cardinals will move St. Edmond into the second round to face either No. 5 Monroe-PCM or CMB-Baxter next.
"We are ready," said Tighe, the state's all-time leader in wins with 390. "We've had a good short week of practice and the kids are amped up. Playing at home will be nice because we don't have to travel and we always have great crowd support from our fans."
The Gaels are 16-3 at Dodger Stadium since 2008, including a perfect 5-0 mark this year.
Clarinda will have a three-plus hour trip, but that is nothing new according to second-year head coach Jim Lindsay. The Cardinals placed third in District 8 and went 3-2 on the road.
"It isn't anything we haven't already had to do," said Lindsay, who went just 3-6 a season ago. "During a four-week period this year, we travelled to Pella (170 miles from Clarinda), Bondurant (140) and Prairie City (148), so these kids are used to this. Before the year, I was pretty upset about our schedule. But looking back on it now, I guess in a weird way I am happy because it has us prepared (for tonight)."
The Cardinals are led by senior quarterback Tyler Steeve, who has thrown for 810 yards, 13 touchdowns and completed 56 percent of his throws - up from 27 percent a year ago. In the season finale, Steeve tossed seven touchdown passes as Clarinda defeated Shenandoah. He also has 491 yards and seven rushing TDs on the year.
Dakota Woods is the top rusher with 541 yards and has five scores, while also recording 62 tackles and four sacks. Alex Hiatt is the leading receiver with 30 receptions for 294 yards and three TDs, with Alex Archer (12 catches, 160 yards) and Jeremiah Haug (five catches, 111 yards) providing second and third options.
"Tyler's comfort level this year has improved with it being his second year in the system," Lindsay said. "He knows our playbook in and out and is very comfortable calling plays. Our kids have bought into our system and everybody is on the same page."
Clarinda finished the year strong by winning two straight and four of its last five. The lone loss in that time came to Monroe-PCM.
"We watched film on (Clarinda) against PCM, and I thought they really played well despite the score being 35-0," Tighe said. "We will have the size advantage, as they are a smaller team, but they have some good speed that we need to account for."
St. Edmond's defense has been up to the challenge this year, holding the opposition to 12 points per game. Teddie Harvey leads the way with 137 tackles, with Alex Mericle right behind with 91 stops. Vinnie Harvey has 58 tackles and six sacks.
Tighe, who is 390-151-8 in 58 seasons, is making his 20th appearance in the postseason. The Gaels are in the playoffs for the eighth time as a school and are 2-7 in those games.
On the injury front, leading receiver and kicker Nick Clark is questionable after spraining his left ankle last Friday against South Hardin. Tighe called him, "50-50 at best," to play tonight. If he can't go, Aaron McElroy and Landon Peed will help fill in at the multiple positions Clark plays.
Game notes: St. Edmond and Clarinda would have meet in the 2005 state semifinals, but both were defeated in the quarters...The Gaels played five playoff teams this year, going 4-1...The Cardinals were just 1-3 vs. playoff opponents...St. Edmond has forced 23 turnovers on the year, including 18 interceptions...Flattery has rushed for 2,251 yards in his career and scored 29 times for the Gaels...Lindsay, who played linebacker at Clarinda, also coached at Ventura, Garner-Hayfield and Cardinal of Eldon...The Cardinals, who are in the playoffs for a ninth time, hold a 12-8 postseason record...Former Fort Dodge Senior High state wrestling champion Josh Porter is an assistant coach for Clarinda.
Contact Dana Becker at (515) 573-2141, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org