The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 12, 2013

Scarlets in unfamiliar position with Something to prove

Last season, Owatonna rolled in state quarterfinals

By Chad Courrier ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — MANKATO — Mankato West's 2012 football season ended with a thumping by Owatonna in the state tournament.

That means the Scarlets should be the more motivated team in the rematch.

"They have a lot of starters back, and they beat us pretty good," West coach Mark Esch said. "We're the team that has something to prove, and we're not used to being in that situation."

The Scarlets host Owatonna at 7 p.m. Friday at Todnem Field. Both teams are 2-0 and haven't been challenged in either game. West has victories over Albert Lea (64-14) and Austin (57-16). Owatonna defeated Rochester Mayo 41-14 and Winona 49-0.

Last season, the teams didn't play each other during the regular season but did meet in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA playoffs. Owatonna dominated that matchup, winning 28-0 and outgaining the Scarlets 401-114 in total yards. Owatonna's Aaron Peterson rushed for 269 yards that night, while West quarterback Ryan Schlichte completed only 9 of 34 passes for 61 yards.

"We allowed them to play tight man coverage, and we couldn't complete anything over the top, which is what we usually do," Esch said. "We were young, we panicked, we couldn't run the ball, we just kind of folded up. The defense couldn't keep us in the game."

This season, the Scarlets have passed for 546 yards and rushed for 423 yards. Schlichte has completed 29 of 45 passes for 468 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. He's also rushed for 112 yards and two scores.

Travon Jones in the top rusher with 152 yards on just seven carries. Will Claussen has 11 catches for 228 yards and three touchdowns, while Connor Watts has five receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, Isaac Weber has 19 tackles, two sacks and an interception. Nate Nelson has made 15 tackles.

Owatonna quarterback Ian Langeberg has completed 23 of 34 passes with three touchdowns, while Peterson has rushed for five touchdowns.

"I think we'll run the ball better because our line is more athletic than last year," Esch said. "We have some running backs who have emerged, and Ryan is running the ball better. I think we're better throwing the ball downfield because we have some receivers who can stretch the field."

Waseca QB record

Waseca senior quarterback Thomas O'Neil tied a school record when he threw five touchdown passes in Friday's 34-28 overtime victory against St. Croix Lutheran. He completed 19 of 35 passes for 277 yards, with three touchdowns to senior Jacob Laube and two to senior Lucas Johnson.

"We've always had big, move-the-pile running backs, and this year, we have good, fast backs," Waseca coach Brad Wendland said. "We have a good receiver group so we're trying to change things offensively to take advantage of that."

In two games, O'Neil has passed for 377 yards and five scores, and rushed for 487 yards and five touchdowns, getting 212 yards and five touchdowns rushing in the season-opener at Little Falls. He set a school record by scoring 32 points against Little Falls.

Last season, O'Neil passed for 523 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 274 yards and five touchdowns.

"He just wasn't healthy last year," Wendland said. "He had his knee (operated on) about two weeks before the season, and we didn't want him to take too many hits. He played in every game, but he was always so sore and it looked like he was in pain all the time.

"It's been great to see what he can do when he's healthy."

Waseca (2-0) plays its first home game Friday against St. Peter (2-0).

NRHEG ends streak

When New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva defeated Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 21-12 on Friday at New Richland, it broke the Panthers' five-year losing streak against their Gopher Valley AA Conference rivals.

"We haven't beat them since 2007 so that was nice," NRHEG coach Dan Stork said. "It was fun. We definitely needed that."

The Bucs won just one game last season and dropped the season-opener 28-7 to Blooming Prairie.

"Last year was definitely tough, the worst year we've had in 10, 12 years," Stork said. "Then we lost to Blooming Prairie, which is a very good team, but to come out and beat your big rival in Week 2, it was very big."

Senior Dillon Parpart was moved from tight end to running back last week, and he responded with 169 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. The team rushed for 230 yards.

Stork credited three-year starters Noah Krell and Nic Goette for anchoring the offensive and defensive lines. Junior quarterback Trevor Tracy has played well in his first two games as a starter.

NRHEG plays at Medford (2-0) on Friday.

Games to watch

Faribault Bethlehem Academy (1-1) plays at St. Clair (2-0) on Friday. Both Gopher Valley A Conference teams advanced to the state tournament last season.

Springfield (2-0) plays at Wabasso (2-0) in a key Southern Minnesota Conference game.