Homecoming week arrives at a perfect time for the St. Edmond football team.
The second-ranked (Class 1A) Gaels expect to face their toughest test of the season thus far when No. 8 IKM-Manning comes to town for an unbeaten matchup this Friday night.
St. Edmond is off to just the fifth 5-0 start in program history, but the third under head coach Dick Tighe in the last eight years, matching 2005 and '11. Tighe is currently 72-34 overall at the school since returning in 2002, placing him four wins shy of 400 overall for his career.
The goal of reaching that milestone is obtainable by the end of the regular season if the Gaels can get past the Wolves tomorrow evening inside what should be a packed Dodger Stadium. After 5-5 and 5-4 hiccups in 2009 and '10, St. Edmond has been a wrecking ball on the gridiron, with 14 wins in its last 16 contests dating back to the start of 2011.
Senior Alex Mericle ranks fourth in Class 1A with 924 rushing yards and first in touchdowns with 17. Neil Flattery had the most prolific single season of rushing in program history a year ago with 1,618 yards and 23 scores - both Gael records. Mericle is on pace to shatter both marks.
St. Edmond ranks third in 1A and 12th for the entire state with 1,783 rushing yards as a team.
CATCH HIM IF YOU CAN: Tyler Vaughn's 19-reception effort last Friday against Ames ranks among the best in state history.
As it turns out, Vaughn also out-performed most Fort Dodge single-season program leaders - over 90 of them to be exact. In one game.
Vaughn's 19 catches either equaled or eclipsed all but 15 Dodger individual highs for an entire year. This isn't just in comparison to archaic, run-dominated squads of decades ago either; Vaughn reached or topped the production level of eight different FDSH leaders since 1999 alone versus the Little Cyclones.
Vaughn moved from nowhere to sixth on the program's single-season reception charts, and into the Top-10 for his career. He had 241 total yards through the Dodgers' first four games before nearly doubling that with 234 yards last Friday.
Although the CIML technically ceases to exist now in football, Vaughn's performance rates as the best ever on the west side of the state in Class 4A. Only Cedar Rapids Washington's Flynn Heald (21 a year ago against Cedar Rapids Kennedy) ranks higher on the all-time charts in Iowa's largest class.
Remember, this is a Dodger program that has been around since the turn of the 20th century. While Fort Dodge hasn't exactly been a passing factory through the years, it's still produced all-state receivers like Alonzo Clayton, Mark Wills and Terry Reiners, as well as standouts Isaac Lehman, Bruce Matter and Darreus Caston, among others.
For Vaughn to shatter the single-game record for receptions by eight and yards by nearly 40 is worth more than just a passing mention. Offenses may be evolving and turning more and more to the air these days, but 19 catches is still in a league of its own. Vaughn should again be commended for that.
EXTRA POINTS: Newell-Fonda climbed to the top of the eight-man rankings this week when previous No. 1 Adair-Casey suffered its first loss of the season. The Mustangs are 5-0 thus far and 23-4 since the 2010 kickoff, carrying on the tradition of excellence under head coach Brian Wilken.
Newell-Fonda is 91-34 during Wilken's 13-year tenure, and the Mustangs' next victory will be the 100th of his career.
Speaking of unbeatens, the Iowa City West Trojans are also 5-0 and behind only Ankeny in the Class 4A Top-10 thanks in large part to the play of senior two-way standout Ezra Reiners.
The son of former Fort Dodge Dodger all-stater and Iowa Hawkeye quarterback Randy Reiners and 1994 FDSH graduate Yolanda Ayala-Huber is West's leading rusher (520 yards, seven touchdowns) and tackler (35). Reiners also has three sacks and a fumble recovery defensively.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org