Friday night's Class 1A, District 2 football battle between No. 2 St. Edmond and eighth-ranked IKM-Manning turned into an entertaining defensive slugfest.
When the clock finally struck zero, the Gaels (5-1 overall, 3-1 in the district) suffered a heartbreaking 7-6 Homecoming setback inside Dodger Stadium.
"We just couldn't ever get anything going consistently on offense," SEHS head coach Dick Tighe said. "I thought both teams were actually pretty evenly matched, but (the Wolves) were just a little bigger and more physical. They did a nice job of taking away our regular ground game (last evening)."
After spotting the visitors an early advantage, the Gaels finally broke through with 4:36 remaining in the second quarter on a 1-yard paydirt plunge from junior fullback Vinnie Harvey. All the momentum quickly shifted back to IKM-Manning, however, as the ensuing extra point clanked off the right upright.
In a hard-fought game that featured a combined 18 punts, a missed PAT ultimately proved to be the final margin of victory for the Wolves (6-0, 3-0). SEHS failed to capitalize on a pair of possessions in the last 2:17, while still clinging to faint comeback hopes.
"We played hard all night, but we have plenty of room for improvement," said Tighe. "Our guys just have to keep their heads up. We've got to beat Manson now next week, so we can stay in second place in the district race."
St. Edmond0 6 0 0- 6
IKM-Manning7 0 0 0-7
IKM-Manning - Cody Eischeid (5-yard pass from Scott Opperman), 4:29 left first. Dillon Muhlbauer kick.
St. Edmond - Vinnie Harvey (1-yard run), 4:36 left second. Kick failed.
Rushing - St. Edmond: Alex Mericle 19-55, Vinnie Harvey 7-16, Aaron McElroy 3-8, Matt Stumpf 1-6, David Flattery 2-5. IKM-Manning: Sam Wegner 14-77, Devontay Massey-Hocken 11-75, Shayne Wiese 20-57, Scott Opperman 6-12, Cody Eischeid 3-1.
Passing - St. Edmond: Flattery 7-18-2-115. IKM-Manning: Opperman 2-5-0-7.
Receiving - St. Edmond: Landon Peed 4-81, Mericle 1-18, Hank Lentsch 1-9, Stumpf 1-7. IKM-Manning: Eischeid 1-5, Wegner 1-2.
St. Edmond, which came in third in 1A in total rushing yards with 1,783, was held to only 90 yards on 32 carries by the suffocating IKM-Manning defensive front.
Despite playing with a sore foot, tailback Alex Mericle paced the bruising Gael ground charge again with 55 yards on 19 attempts. Entering Friday's action, Mericle ranked first in 1A in scoring (102 points). The 195-pound senior has now registered 979 yards on 151 carries this season.
"Mericle looked ok out (on the field)," Tighe said. "We have to get him rested up and back to full strength this week."
Gael senior signal-caller David Flattery matched his previous season's total for completions and attempts, going 7-for-18 through the air for 115 yards, including two interceptions. Landon Peed, a sophomore, was the top receiver for St. Edmond, hauling in four grabs for a career-high 81 yards - with a long of 46 on St. Edmond's scoring drive.
Flattery also boomed a punt 67 yards in the final frame.
"We didn't throw the ball bad at times, but we need to keep working on our passing plays for later on down the road," said Tighe.
Sam Wegner (14 totes, 77 yards) and Devontay Massey-Hocken (11, 75) ignited the Wolves' double-wing offense. Cody Eischeid delivered the lone IKM-Manning touchdown on a five-year reception from Scott Opperman.
The Wolves overcame a missed 37-yard field goal as well with 9:31 left in the third period.
Defensively, IKM-Manning received picks from cornerbacks Mark Eberly and Wegner.
Aiming to rebound, the Gaels travel to rival Manson Northwest Webster (3-3, 2-1) on Friday. The Cougars edged Sioux Central last night, 30-26.