By Joe Tischler
Special to The Free Press
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the Mankato West football team. Their first four victories were wiped away for using an ineligible player, and they lost the last two games in the final minutes.
The Scarlets had a lot of frustration to unleash at visiting Rochester Century on Friday night at Todnem Field. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Schlichte accounted for six touchdowns in the first half that helped the Scarlets dominate the Panthers 58-8 in a Big Nine Conference matchup.
“The first couple days (after the forfeits were announced), we were pretty frustrated, but our coaches talked to us and we got over it really fast,” said West senior receiver Alex Knutson. “We decided to come together, play hard and play as a family.”
The outcome had already been decided just a few five minutes into the game as the Scarlets put up 30 points. The first points came 36 seconds into the game when Schlichte connected with Knutson on a 25-yard reception.
Century quarterback Jacob Roth fumbled on the third play of the next possession, which was recovered by West’s Isaac Weber at the Panthers’ 40-yard line. On the next play, Schlichte lofted a pass to the end zone to a wide-open Knutson.
“We wanted to get the offense rolling right away,” Knutson said. “We also knew the defense had to step up and win us the game.”
Roth fumbled again on the first play of the next series, and was recovered by Connor Watts at the Century 17. On the third play, Schlichte ran in from 3 yards to make it 21-0 only 2:37 into the game.
West’s special teams scored as well on the Panthers’ next drive. A bad punt snap was recovered by Century’s Alex Crawford in the end zone for a safety.
The ensuing punt gave West possession inside Century territory again at the 45. The quick-strike offense needed three plays for Will Claussen to catch a 25-yard touchdown to make it 30-0 with 7:03 to play in the first quarter.
The West defense held at the 1-yard line later in the quarter. On the first play, Schlichte lofted a pass deep down the middle for Watts, but he couldn’t hang on. West called the same play for the next pass, and this time, Watts made the catch and outraced a Century defender for the 99-yard score for a 37-0 lead.
Schlichte and Watts connected again from 35 yards for a scoring reception in the second quarter to lead 44-0 at halftime.
The sophomore quarterback was 12 of 17 passing for 307 yards and five touchdowns. Watts had a 134 yards receiving.
Trenton Marks and Cory Johnson each added rushing touchdowns in the second half for the Scarlets. Century scored late squashing the shutout attempt.
West coach Mark Esch told his team afterward that they made a statement to the rest of Section 2AAAAA.
“We feel like we still have to prove we deserve a high seed in the section with a couple losses,” he said. “We want to play our best football at the end of the year. No matter where we’re seeded, we want to leave no doubt that we are the No. 1 seed.”
West (1-6, 1-5 in Big Nine) will play Mankato East at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Blakeslee Stadium. The Scarlets have won six straight in the series.