Sep. 23—Mankato West had high expectations for this season, but with only three starters returning from a state championship team, it could have taken a while for the Scarlets to get things right.
But it didn't.
"I'm not surprised," West coach J.J. Helget said. "I saw the potential for this group during the summer. I thought we'd be pretty good against the run, and our secondary was going to be pretty good. I knew we could run the football, and it was a matter of whether (quarterback) Bart (McAninch) would play well once the lights went on. He's played very well."
The Scarlets (3-0) host Rochester Century (0-3) at noon Saturday at Todnem Field. West has won 22 straight games over the last three seasons.
The Scarlets have been ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA polls for the last two weeks, getting 9 of 10 first-place votes this week.
Helget said that all of the summer workouts and a team camp showed his players what it took to be successful. Most of the players were on the sidelines last season when the Scarlets went undefeated for the first time in program history.
"They watched those players achieve their goal, and now it's time for these players to achieve their goal," Helgert said. "They experienced a championship from the sidelines, and now they get that chance on the field. They've seen that (a state championship) is a realistic goal."
The Scarlets are averaging 36.7 points and allowing 7.0 points. The rushing attack is averaging 224.7 yards, with Jackson Froderman leading the team with 364 yards and four touchdowns.
McAninch has completed 27 of 44 passes for 399 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. Ethan Johnston is the top receiver with eight catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Linebacker Ty Neils leads the defense with 22 tackles, including 9 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. Safety Damian Riewe has 13 tackles and a team-high three interceptions.
With all the new faces, only two Scarlets play on both offense and defense. Ethan Johnston is a starting receiver and defensive back and only comes out when he's tired. Gage Schmidt is a starting offensive lineman who rotates with two other players on defense.
"We have to stay healthy," Helget said. "We've been able to platoon so we only have one player going both ways, which is awesome. We have to find ways to continue to progress and get better every day."
Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton has the Golden Brick, the traveling trophy in the series with New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, after Friday's 25-14 victory on Friday at Janesville.
The series began in 1941 when it was just Janesville vs. New Richland. JWP leads the series 24-15 with one tie, though there are no results available from 1961-1985 and the teams didn't play each other from 2001-2018.
NRHEG won 42-0 last season before JWP took back the Brick on Friday.
St. Clair/Loyola kickers Simon Morgan and Irie Hansen have been perfect this season, making all 11 PATS.
Morgan kicked the first three PATs in Saturday's 28-7 victory at Mayer Lutheran, the No. 2-ranked team in Class A, and Hansen kicked the final PAT.
This season, Morgan, who also has a 35-yard field goal, is 9 of 9 on PATs, while Hansen is 2 for 2.
Coach Dustin Bosshart said it was an emotional victory Saturday for his team, which had dedicated the game to St. Clair student Gabi Hebl, who died in a car accident last week.
St. Clair/Loyola (3-0), who received votes in this week's Class AA poll, plays at New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva on Saturday.
Games to watch
Maple River (2-1) plays at Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial on (1-2) Friday night. There's no Jug involved in this game, but there is a good rivalry between the schools.
In a rematch of last season's Section 3AAA championship game, Waseca (2-1) hosts Fairmont (2-1) on Friday. Fairmont won the section final 27-6 at Fairmont.
Waseca is ranked No. 10 in Class AAA, three spots ahead of Fairmont.
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.