Mankato West looks to defend state title

Scarlets open state tournament against a familiar opponent.
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 7:46 PM CST
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) -The Mankato West football team returns to this year’s class 5A state football tournament with hopes of repeating as champs.

Despite losing a large number of talented seniors from last year’s squad, the results are the same for Mankato West. the team is undefeated and busy gearing up for another state tournament.

“Following that group they had in front of them, a lot of these guys were in the shadows. They didn’t get an opportunity to make a name for themselves. To lose 18 starters from a state championship team. To step in with a bunch of new guys and watch them step up. It’s phenomenal to see what they’ve done. To be 10-0 right now after the season we had last year, that’s a testament to what they did in the offseason, how hard they’ve worked. We’re here where we are because of the work we put in the summer and in the offseason, not anything we did any other time,” said JJ Helget, Mankato West head coach.

“We knew we were going to be good. We had it in us, and just playing together working out together in the offseason built that bond, and we’re kind of a whole different team, but we’re still the Mankato West football team at the end of the day,” said Ethan Johnston, Mankato West senior.

The Scarlets aren’t struggling to score points this season, but the team’s biggest strength lies on the defensive side of the ball. West is holding opponents to just seven and a half points per game.

“Defense is always the backbone to this team. The offense gets a lot of praise because of the scores, but a lot of times, we score a lot of points because our defense puts us in great positions to score. I can’t say enough about what our defense is doing and what they have been doing over the last how many years. It’s always been the backbone of this team,” said Helget.

After blowing out plenty of opponents this year, the Scarlets closest margin of victory came in the section championship against Chanhassen where the team proved it could not only win big, but also in tight match-ups before taking the field at state.

“For how close it was, I’m glad it was that close. It shows us we can lose at anytime, and we’ve got to stay humble. That sort of game sets the bar high for us because it was very close. We’ve got to execute, prove our point. Our goal is the Bank, we’ve got to execute and prove our point,” said Damian Riewe, Mankato West senior.

The state quarterfinals match-up for Mankato West is against a familiar opponent in Rochester Mayo. Mayo is the only team to lead in a game against the Scarlets in 2022.

West takes on Mayo Saturday night in Prior Lake at 7:00.