MANKATO — Both Mankato West and Mankato East got important football victories last week, though for different reasons.
West (3-1) defeated Rochester John Marshall 56-14, bouncing back from a last-play loss to Big Nine Conference-leading Owatonna the previous week. East (1-3) just needed a win to get out of the Big Nine basement and end a 14-game losing streak, defeating Albert Lea 12-6 after three lopsided losses to start the season.
“Whenever you lose a game like (Owatonna), you always want to get right back out there,” West coach Mark Esch said. “There’s two ways to go after a loss. You can come back strong or you can tank the next one. I was happy with the way the kids bounced back.”
The teams meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Blakeslee Stadium in the 41st annual Jug game. East leads the series 22-18, but West has won the last seven games by a combined score of 239-40. Last season, the Scarlets won 44-0.
“Trying to get that first win is not a productive way to think,” East coach Eric Davis said. “Now that we have one, we can just play the game. We made a ton of mistakes at the end of the game last week, but now we can work on making a play to win rather than worry about making the wrong play.”
West is led by junior quarterback Ryan Schlichte, who has completed 53 of 99 passes for 901 yards with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions, but the Scarlets will be without top receiver, senior Will Claussen who could miss up to a month with a shoulder injury. Claussen has 21 catches for 455 yards and six scores, with three consecutive 100-yard receiving games. Jon Pytlak will start for Claussen.
West has three running backs with at least 200 yards rushing, led by Cory Johnson with 242 yards and five touchdowns.
Senior linebacker Isaac Weber has 44 tackles with an interception and four sacks, and junior safety Nate Nelson has 40 tackles.
“We want to play our best football game this week,” Esch said. “We want to continue to improve and build some momentum for the rest of the season and the playoffs.”
East won last week despite missing 10 players to injury, including quarterback Nic Seiler and linebacker/punter/kicker Nick Brink. Davis said he expects most of that group to be back in the lineup this week.
“We want to play with some confidence,” Davis said. “We won a game, and we don’t want to stop there. The offense controlled the ball better, and we tackled better. We don’t want to go backward.”
Seiler has completed 54.8 percent of his passes for 135 yards, though Cooper Wolfe filled in nicely last week. Robert Miller is the top rusher with 246 yards and Ryan Carlsten is the top receiver with 12 catches.
Nick Makovsky and Tyler Substad are tied for the team lead with 33 tackles, and Makovsky also has made two sacks. Logan Swanson has 28 tackles with two sacks.
At last week’s game, Nicollet recognized the 50-year anniversary of the school’s only undefeated football team.
That team went 8-0. There have been other undefeated regular seasons, but with the playoffs, no other Raiders team has ever won all of its games.
Nicollet coach Tom Murphy said that of the 30 players on the 1963 team, 23 made it back to Nicollet for last week’s game, along with three former coaches. Two players came back from Colorado, one from Illinois and one from Texas.
About 60 former players and spouses attended a dinner at the school before Friday’s game and were honored at halftime.
Games to watch
The premier game in the area will be played as undefeated Blue Earth Area, ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, plays at undefeated Waseca, rated No. 8 in Class AAAA. The Bucs have won 13 straight regular-season games. Last season, BEA defeated Waseca 17-7.
New Ulm Cathedral (3-1) plays at Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (4-0), which is rated fourth in Class A. St. Mary’s is in a three-way tie at the top of the Southern Minnesota Conference with Martin County West and Wabasso.