MANKATO — How often does a high-school football game between No. 1 and No. 2 hold up to the hype?
Who cares! It did Friday night at Todnem Field.
"We have a lot of stuff to work on, but we also did some great things tonight," Mankato West senior receiver Will Claussen said. "If they're the No. 1 team and we're that close, I feel good about our future."
Carter McCauley's 38-yard field on the last play allowed Owatonna, the No. 1-rated team in Class AAAAA, to defeat No. 2 West 24-21 in a Big Nine Conference football game Friday night before a huge crowd at Todnem Field. The teams were never more than one score apart, and it was tied for most of the game.
"It was a great chess match really," West coach Mark Esch said. "I think (Owatonna) got a little discouraged in their run game, and they threw it pretty well in the first half. Owatonna ran the ball pretty well in the second half, and when they do that, it never surprises me. That's what they love to do."
The teams combined for 404 yards of offense in the first half, with Owatonna passing for 219 yards and the Scarlets passing for 139 yards.
But the key play was a fumble by West. Facing second down at the Owatonna 3, the ball popped loose, and Owatonna recovered.
"That was the key play of the game," Esch said. "It could have been a lot different if we get in there."
Instead, the Huskies went 90 yards in six plays, scoring on a 41-yard pass from Ian Langeberg to Ty Sullivan for a 7-0 lead.
West answered in the second quarter, a one-play drive on a 51-yard pass from Ryan Schlichte to Claussen. Andrew Opsal's PAT made it 7-7.
West got another score just before halftime as the same combo hooked up from 19 yards on a perfectly thrown fade to the corner.