Gaels challenge unbeaten Bears

There is nothing Dick Tighe and the St. Edmond football team would like more than to play spoiler in Bishop Garrigan’s pursuit of a perfect season.

And Golden Bear head coach Marty Wadle is fully aware of that.

The rivals will meet for the 55th time this evening at Dodger Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Fourth-ranked (Class A) Bishop Garrigan enters with an unblemished 8-0 overall record and 6-0 mark in District 2. In six league games, they have allowed just 12 total points, including four consecutive shutouts.

“The kids want to finish strong, and that means playing well and getting a win,” said Wadle, who is now in his 25th season with BGHS where he has won 179 games. “We’ve done a really good job of keeping focus on each week and just trying to get better each day.”

On the other end of the spectrum sits Tighe and the Gaels (2-6, 1-5), who snapped a five-game losing skid with a road win over Sioux Central last Friday.

“We’ve seen what Bishop Garrigan can do and we know it is going to be a big challenge for us,” said Tighe, who won his state-leading 432nd game last week. “They are just as good – if not better – than they were a year ago, and they were a really good team then, too.

“We’re going to have to play our best game of the year to be with them, without question.”

Special teams accounted for all nine St. Edmond points in the triumph at Sioux Central, as freshman Jackson Bemrich blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, while senior Logan Fear connected on a 22-yard field goal in overtime.

Cade Naughton leads the Gael offense with 448 yards rushing, while Fear has 376. Freshman Charlie Shelly has rushed for 271 yards.

“Logan’s given us everything this year and more,” Tighe said. “He’s still not 100 percent, but he’s going to go out there each and every play and do what he can.”

Jack Rasmussen, who currently leads the state in tackles with 113 stops, is expected to be good to go after suffering an injury last week.

“Jack’s another kid that continues to play through injury,” Tighe said. “We’ll probably try to mix some new kids in for (Rasmussen and Fear) because Garrigan is big and they are going to come right at us.”

Garrigan, which has already clinched another district title, is led by its rushing attack on offense. Spearheading the crew if senior Gibson Behr, who is eight yards shy of reaching the 1,000-yard mark for a second consecutive season.

Behr has 992 yards on just 108 carries, scoring 16 rushing touchdowns. He also has four catches for 43 yards and a score, has picked off two passes and returned one 55 yards for a TD, and has has three punt returns for touchdowns on the year.

Senior Max Patkins has 431 yards and six scores, quarterback Brad Capesius has rushed for 255 and four TDs, Grant Buscherfeld has 173 and Preston Kohlhaas 172. As a unit, the Golden Bears have 2,210 yards rushing.

“We’ve really done a nice job of distributing the ball around on offense,” Wadle said. “Gibson has done a great job and gets a lot of the credit, but when the other kids have had their number called, they have delivered, too.”

Capesius has 590 yards passing and seven touchdowns, completing 52 percent of his throws. Joel Vaske is the leading receiver with 22 catches for 413 yards and five TDs.

“Brad is still learning but he has done a great job stepping in for Zac (Kibby, who is now at the University of Northern Iowa) and three-year starter Reece (Wadle),” Wadle said. “He’s been able to gain confidence playing behind a veteran offensive line and experienced kids at the skill positions.”

As effective as the Garrigan offense has been, averaging almost 39 points a game, the defense has been even better. They have surrendered just 46 points on the season – 28 of which came to likely playoff qualifier Southeast Valley.

Chase Winkel and Buscherfeld lead the defense in tackles, while they have forced 18 turnovers, led by Vaske’s three interceptions.

“The kids have been playing really well on defense,” Wadle said. “They take a lot of pride in that part of the game. We gave up a lot of yards vs. a very good Southeast Valley team early in the year, but we have gotten better both against the run and pass.”

Last year, the Golden Bears and Gaels opened the season in Algona. Behr ran for 147 yards on just eight carries, scoring twice in the BGHS win. They had 339 yards rushing on the ground and finished with 439 yards of total offense.

Game notes: Bishop Garrigan leads the all-time series with St. Edmond, 36-19. … The teams first played in 1959, with the Gaels claiming a 26-7 victory. … St. Edmond won eight consecutive over the Golden Bears before falling 39-21 last year. … Behr has 2,559 yards and 31 rushing touchdowns in his career. … He is tied for second in the state with three punt returns for touchdowns. … Bishop Garrigan has won 17 consecutive regular season games and 19 of 20 overall.