Scarlets prepare for Class 5A semifinals clash against Rogers

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 10:52 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2021 at 11:06 PM CST
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - The 11-0 Mankato West football team is headed to U.S. Bank Stadium for a Class AAAAA semifinals match up against the 10-1 Rogers Royals.

The top-ranked Scarlets inching closer to a program-fifth state championship and the first since 2014.

“There’s going to be no snow, we’ve dealt with a lot of rain and snow this year so it feels really good. I feel like we deserve it. I feel like we worked really hard. I feel like from the get go, we’ve really known we have a good shot and that we’re a great team,” West senior quarterback Zander Dittbenner said.

A deep postseason run is a long time coming for the Mankato West Scarlets.

Last year, the Scarlets finished with a perfect record, including a memorable win over Chaska in the season finale. Chaska, the team responsible for knocking West out of the two previous Section 2AAAAA tournaments.

Though, like the rest of the state, competing for a state title wasn’t in the cards as the COVID-19 season came to a premature close.

Hayden Hartman: “This has been our goal the whole time, we don’t plan to come in first round and just play in the state tournament. We’re here to win the whole thing and we’re ready to play,” Scarlet senior linebacker Hayden Hartman said.

Mankato West was put to the test in Saturday’s state tournament opener against the second-ranked St. Thomas Academy Cadets.

The Scarlets held a narrow 14-7 lead at the half. West tacked on another touchdown early in the third quarter to go up 21-7, leaving it up to the defense from then on out.

“After we scored on [Brady] Haugum’s pass from [Zander] Dittbenner, you just saw the defense and they got excited. So, it’s nice when the defense makes stops, because it ignites the offense and when the offense makes big plays the defense just steps it up so much more. It’s exciting, it’s a great football team, I love this team. I wouldn’t trade them for any team in the state. I’m excited to get after it Saturday,” head Mankato West football coach J.J. Helget said.

Mankato West’s next challenge is Rogers. The Royals handed Andover its first loss of the season 21-20 in the quarterfinals to advance.

“Every other team at this point is good, it doesn’t matter what their record is, it doesn’t matter what their ranking is. Top four. They’re here for a reason, so we’re going to be ready for it. We’re going to prepare the way we have our whole season,” Dittbenner added.

The Scarlets and Royals are scheduled to kick off on Minnesota’s biggest stage at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

“It’s just a big football field with way more stands, that’s it. When push comes to shove, we’ll show up. That’s the key, is that we don’t over look the atmosphere, the atmosphere isn’t what were going to care about. We’re going to show up and play football,” said Helget.

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