New coach, same winning attitude at Mankato West

The Scarlets are currently 4-1 and hungry for State title dreams

Former Mankato West head football coach Mark Esch stepped down after the season last November. Esch made nine trips to the state tournament while compiling two state championships.

The Scarlets will now turn to longtime assistant and offensive coordinator J.J. Helget to lead the team. Not many people expect a drop off in play however, as this team brings back plenty of experience and talent to help smooth the transition from old coach to new. Being the offensive coordinator for the past five years, Helget will not change the system nor the philosophy of this team; wanting to make the transition for the players and for himself as smooth as it can possibly be.

The Mankato West Scarlets return a decent number of players who played on the semifinal squad from a year ago. When looking at certain position groups, do not look any further than what is in the trenches. West returns four of their five offensive linemen from last year and most of their rotation for the defensive line. Many believe the game is won and lost at the line of scrimmage so this could be very critical for the Scarlets if they want to continue their winning ways in 2017.

Some new faces will be out there at the skill positions. West lost a couple of key players from last year’s squad, including the running back and quarterback. Sophomore quarterback Jack Foster shined in his varsity debut against Rochester Century. Foster managed to throw for 251 yards and two touchdowns while completing 65% of his throws. Foster seems to have great chemistry with senior wide receiver Dondre Spann. Spann hauled in 16 passes from Foster, going for 190 yards and two touchdowns against Rochester Century. Senior running back Dustin Mueller also had a solid game toting the rock 13 times for 79 yards. West ended up winning their opening game 28-0.

The Scarlets took on their cross-town rivals the next week playing Mankato East. As has been the story the past couple of years, West beat East pretty handily winning 38-12.

For a team that has made two semifinal appearances since their state title in 2014, the expectations for success are no different this time around; even with a new head coach. The Scarlets are off to a fast start (2-0) and are currently ranked third in class 5A.

The goal for this team is clear: state tournament or bust.

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