Prep football notebook: West's good start begins with defense

·3 min read

Sep. 16—Need to rush for a yard against the Mankato West football team?

Good luck with that.

Through two games, opponents have 48 rushing attempts, and the net result is 1 yard.

"We brought back the core of our front seven on defense," West coach J.J. Helget said. "We expected to be strong against the run."

The Scarlets (2-0) take on Owatonna in a Big Southeast District Red Division game Friday at Todnem Field, which should be their best test so far.

The Scarlets already have victories over Rochester John Marshall (61-0) and New Prague (42-7), while the Huskies are 1-1.

Linebacker Ryan Haley has led the defense, making 15 tackles, including 7 tackles for loss, and two sacks. End Gannon Rosenfeld has 10 tackles, with 4 tackles for loss and three sacks.

"(Defensive coordinator Greg Ellsworth) puts the guys in great spots, and they fit what we do," Helget said. "If everybody gets their hats in the gaps, good things happen.

"If the guys up front do their jobs, Ryan can run free and make plays or kick things back to the safeties."

Quarterback Zander Dittbenner has passed for 210 yards and seven touchdowns, and he's rushed for 75 yards and a score. Mekhi Collins has five catches, but four have gone for touchdowns.

Walker Britz has been the rushing leader, gaining 218 yards and two touchdowns on 22 attempts. Haley has just two rushes, but both went for touchdowns, including a 76-yarder. West has rushed for 488 yards, gaining 8.13 yards per attempt.

Helget said that despite Owatonna's 1-1 start, he expects a tough game Friday.

"There's a reason they have three state championships in the last 10 years," he said. "They've had some injuries so it's hard to tell what they'll do, but we expect them to run the football. They'll be ready to play."

Spartans' success

St. Clair/Loyola is 2-0 after wins against United South Central (31-20) and Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton (42-0), but the Spartans face a tough test against Mayer Lutheran on Saturday at the Loyola field.

"They're as good of a 1A program as there is," Spartans coach Dustin Bosshart said. "They're loaded."

Mayer Lutheran is 1-1 but has been missing some key players, who could return this week. After that, the Spartans face New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and Blooming Prairie.

"This is the gambit for us," Bosshart said. "We've been talking this week that we really haven't beaten a blue-chip team. If we want to make the next step, we have to beat programs like Mayer Lutheran and Blooming Prairie."

The Spartans are averaging 36.5 points and 402.5 yards of offense, with 236.5 yards rushing. The Spartans have been more explosive in the pass game, with Mason Ward completing 11 of 18 passes for 295 yards and five touchdowns.

Simon Morgan has four catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Senior receiver Connor Andree was injured in the season opener, and his return is questionable.

"(The emergence of the passing game) kind of started last year," Bosshart said. "We've got some good skill at the receiver position, and we have some quarterbacks that can chuck it. I think we're more balanced than we have ever been."

Brandon Meng has been the top rusher with 297 yards, averaging 7.6 yards per carry. He's scored three touchdowns.

"We've been playing pretty well," Bosshart said. "The scores of our first two games haven't been indicative of how tough those games were."

Game of the week

Waseca and Tri-City United are tied at 2-0 in Section 2AAA, along with Fairmont. The teams meet at Montgomery on Friday.

Maple River (2-0) plays at Redwood Valley (2-0) on Friday. The Eagles are averaging 45.0 points and allowing 4.0, while Redwood Valley is averaging 50.0 points and allowing 10.0.

Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.

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