Expectations remain high for Mankato West football

The Scarlets are fresh off a runner-up finish at state.
Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 3:43 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) -The start of the 2023 season is finally here as area football teams get ready for games coming up on August 31st and September 1st. For the Mankato West football team, this group is coming off a runner-up finish in the Class AAAAA state championship.

“Everybody had a sour taste in their mouth. We had a lot of guys who felt like they had unfinished business. We’ve been getting after it basically since the week after that,” said JJ Helget, Mankato West head coach.

In each of the past two seasons, the Scarlets reached the state championship at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The team is 1-1 in those games. Typically squads that go to back-to-back title games feature many of the same players on the roster, but for West, that wasn’t the case. Now, many of those first year starters from 2022 are back and more comfortable than ever in the system.

“Last postseason, we faced a lot of adversity, lot of close games. This year, we have a harder schedule coming up, lot of teams that we played in the playoffs that we’re playing in the regular season. We’re ready to face that adversity,” said Bart McAninch, West senior quarterback.

The team’s high flying offense steals plenty of headlines, but defensively is really where this team thrives, shutting out opponents in half of its regular season’s match-ups this past year.

Up front, the group controls the line of scrimmage and makes getting to the quarterback look easy.

The play from that side of the ball along with its high-scoring offense is why West will be one of the favorites to win it all in Class AAAAA.

“You have to be who you say you are. You can’t just say you’re the best. You have to act like it, play like it every day in practice. You have to be consistent with what you’re doing and put in the work,” said Jalen Smith, Mankato West senior wide receiver.

The Scarlets open up the 2023 campaign at home against Northfield on August 31st.

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