MANKATO — Peyton Goettlicher was a receiver as he was growing up, but as he moved into varsity competition, he made the switch to cornerback.
“It was tough at first,” the Mankato West senior said. “It was something I wanted to do, and it was an opportunity to help the team.”
Goettlicher is one of the starting cornerbacks on the West football team, which faces Rogers (11-1) in the Class AAAAA semifinals at 7 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
In the playoffs, Goettlicher has also been one of West’s top receivers, with four touchdowns in three postseason wins. He hasn’t played much at receiver in the last two seasons, but he’s been staying sharp in practice.
Last week, in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs, he made a spectacular finger-tip grab of a pass and ran 62 yards for the opening touchdown.
He has six catches for 165 yards with four touchdowns in postseason victories over New Prague, Chaska and St. Thomas Academy, pushing his season totals to 10 receptions for 230 yards and five scores.
“He’s been repping (at receiver) all year, and we knew that when we got to the bigger games, we were going to use him both ways,” West coach J.J. Helget said.
Goettlicher has been a starting cornerback for the last two seasons. This season, he has seven tackles and seven assists, with two interceptions. Both of those came in the win over St. Thomas Academy, including one in the end zone as the Cadets were driving late in the second quarter, trying to score the tying touchdown.
“He has quick feet and phenomenal hands,” Helget said. “His hands are just sticky, and he’ll lay out for any ball. He’s also able to catch the ball in traffic.”
Goettlicher has also returned punts and kickoffs this season, and against St. Thomas Academy, he spent a lot of time chasing the Cadets’ best athlete, who lined up at receiver, running back and quarterback at times. With Mekhi Collins on the other corner, West doesn’t assign a defender to a specific offensive player, but Goettlicher doesn’t mind getting matched up against another top athlete.
“I think it’s my track background and conditioning,” Goettlicher said. “It’s a lot of reps, but I’m kind of used to it.”
Goettlicher hopes to play college football, and some Division II programs such as Minnesota Duluth, Bemidji State and Sioux Falls have shown interest. He’s being recruited as a defensive back, even though he might favor receiver a little more, if he were pressed to choose.
“I like them pretty equally,” he said. “I think playing receiver has helped me to understand defense. It’s just exciting to have an opportunity to make big plays and help the team.”
Goettlicher is looking forward to helping his team achieve a two-year goal of winning another state championship. The Scarlets, who have won 17 straight games and have 22 seniors, were denied a shot at the fifth state championship in school history last season when the playoffs were shortened by the pandemic.
“It’s so exciting,” he said. “We’ve been working for this all season. We thought we had a shot last year, but it’s amazing when all the hard work pays off.”
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.