Mankato West boasts superior defense ahead of Class 5A state title game

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 10:27 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2021 at 10:52 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - The 12-0 Mankato West Football team is one win away from a state championship, after a 42-7 performance in the Class 5A semifinals.

Leading the Scarlets in key moments, on both sides of the ball, is top-10 Mr. Football finalist senior linebacker, Ryan Haley.

“He just makes plays, it’s just phenomenal. He’s the best inside linebacker that I’ve ever coached, probably the best inside linebacker I’ve seen on film. He’s phenomenal. He’s always around the ball, he’s reading his keys, he runs fast. I’m glad I don’t have to scheme against him,” head Mankato West football coach J.J. Helget said.

Haley has quickly become one of the most feared linebackers in the state, notching 130 tackles, 33 tackles-for-loss and 14 sacks this season.

“He’s able to walk up and look at a formation and know what plays they’re going to run or what their tendencies are just by film watching,” Helget added.

Collectively, the Mankato West defense owns seven shutouts while allowing just eight touchdowns through 12 games.

At running back, Haley is looked to for short-yardage plays. Against Rogers, the Brown University commit fueled West with three second-quarter touchdowns.

Two on offense, one on defense.

“We put the ball in his hands and you know he does great things with it and the team backs him and they get excited when we call Jumbo Cat everybody gets happy,” Helget said.

Haley’s ability on the gridiron landed him in the top-10 finalists for Minnesota’s Mr. Football award, given to the best senior football player in the state.

“I was pretty surprised honestly, because obviously there’s a lot of great players in Minnesota. I’m just thankful to be in the position I am and I’m really glad it worked out how it did,” Haley said.

“That’s a testament to what Ryan has done and where he has gotten himself. He’s earned every accolade that he’s gotten,” Helget said.

Next fall, Haley will reunite with former Scarlet quarterback Jack Foster with the Brown Bears.

“I’m super excited to meet up with him next year. I know when I was at camp there we talked and when I committed he said he was super excited for me and can’t wait to get on campus so I’m really excited about that,” Haley added.

But first, West’s 25 seniors, along with the rest of the team, prepare for the biggest game of their football careers up to this point.

“For most of our starting players, it’s our last game and that kind of motivates us to leave everything that we have out on the field, because knowing that we might not get another shot to do it,” Haley said.

Kick off between Mankato West and Mahtomedi is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday inside U.S. Bank Stadium.

Copyright 2021 KEYC. All rights reserved.