Through the years Mankato West has built itself as a high octane passing offense behind a string of talented quarterbacks but the Scarlets can run the ball a little, too.
Case in point, Saturday’s 34-14 road win over second-seeded Chanhassen, where Mankato West pounded the ball to the tune of 318 total yards and five touchdowns.
“People think just because you’re a spread offense you’re just going to pass the football,” said Scarlets second-year coach JJ Helget. “We like to say we’re going to have a nice, even mix. Honestly, we’re going to take advantage of what the defense is going to allow us to do and we saw some fundamental flaws in the way they aligned that we thought we had a good power scheme.”
Now third-seeded Mankato West (9-1) is back on familiar turf in a familiar game: the Section 2AAAAA championship. The Scarlets will face Chaska (7-3), a No. 4 seed that knocked off top-seeded Waconia 35-14 also on Saturday.
Seems like the section title still runs through Mankato West after all.
Wyatt Block led the Scarlets with 167 yards rushing, which included a 64-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that made it 34-14 after the extra-point kick. Block had a 24-yard touchdown scamper in the second quarter to put Mankato West up 13-7 after an extra-point kick failed.
The Scarlets carried that 13-7 lead into the second half but Chanhassen put together a 10-play, 80-yard drive to start the third quarter that ended in a 24-yard touchdown run from quarterback Jacob Miller. The extra-point kick put the Storm in front 14-13 but that was the last time Chanhassen held a lead.
Foster ran in for a pair of fourth-quarter scores as the Scarlets built a 27-14 lead.
Credit Mankato West’s beefy offensive line for many of those yards, especially the tough ones on third downs. The Scarlets converted 15 third downs to keep drives alive behind a line, which includes 285-pound Garrett Shumski, that imposed its will on the Storm defense.
“We knew to win the game we would have to run on them and our linemen played a great game and so did the running backs,” Foster said. “I would say this is one of the best games we’ve had on the line running.”
Mankato West ran 12 plays on its opening drive, which ended in a 3-yard touchdown run from Melik Davis.
The Storm responded just three plays later with a 62-yard touchdown run from Miller that tied the game after the extra-point kick.
Turnovers plagued Chanhassen though. The Storm threw two interceptions and fumbled late in the fourth quarter near the red zone to kill a drive.
It was Mankato West’s sixth-straight win over Chanhassen. The four-time defending Section 2AAAAA champs came into the postseason as the No. 3 seed. Now the Scarlets will be the higher seed and have home-field advantage once again for the section title.
“It is what it is at this point but the scores over the last few years might tell otherwise,” Helget said of the seeding. “We’re going to do whatever we need to do.”