Mankato East gears up for 2023 campaign
MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) -The Mankato East football team is busy gearing up for the upcoming 2023 campaign. It looks a little bit different than year’s past for the Cougars as the team moves to a schedule that doesn’t feature as many Big 9 conference games.
“We still play three Big 9 teams, we play Rochester John Marshall, Mankato West and Austin. Lot more section and class based. We’re playing all the teams in our section, our section is strong that’s featured teams that do very well at state. We know if we want to beat those teams, we have to play those teams and that’s a great challenge for us this year,” said Eric Davis, East head coach.
Jumping up from Class AAAA to AAAAA is no easy task, and after playing a primarily AAAA schedule last year during the regular season, East took the field in the Section 2AAAAA playoffs, a stacked section which features teams that not only make deep runs at state, but win titles.
This year, the schedule features those AAAAA opponents where the Cougars will get a taste of the competition right away in week one against St. Louis Park.
“I think it’ll be a good test. It’ll really show how well we’ve been practicing, working hard. If it goes bad, it shows us what we have to work on. If it goes good, still shows us that we have to work hard,” said Ainsley Stubbs, East senior.
The Cougars sport a young team that’s coming off a year where many players earned valuable experience, including along the offensive line where two freshmen started in 2022.
“I think they’ve taken pretty big strides. Max he’s been good, consistent in the weight room, getting bigger, staking his ground a little bit harder. Same with Petzel. Staying hard in the weight room. They’re learning plays really well. I think they’ll hold their ground pretty well this year,” said Stubbs.
East’s seniors are taking it on themselves to make sure they bring those younger players along to leave the program in a better place.
“I think it’s really big. When we were sophomores, we had a great senior class in front of us that taught us well. We want to repeat that for them. Having an older person telling you and showing you the way, it helps to get them going,” said Rafe Bowman, East senior.
The Cougars open the season at home against St. Louis Park Friday September first with kick-off set for seven in the evening.
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