A dominant defensive performance reached its zenith as Mankato West cornerback Peyton Goettlicher and defensive end Gibson Blackstad jumped in the air for an end zone chest bump to celebrate the former’s interception return for a fourth quarter touchdown.
Four fumble recoveries. Three sacks. Two interceptions. And two touchdowns. All the Scarlets defense needs now is a Prep Bowl Shuffle video on TikTok.
Led by its defense, top-ranked Mankato West dismantled Rogers in a 42-7 victory on Saturday in the Class 5A football state tournament semifinals.
The Scarlets (12-0) advance to the Prep Bowl and face Mahtomedi at 4 p.m. Nov. 27 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“Our defense is the strength of our team,” Scarlets’ coach JJ Helget said. “We’re fast; we’re physical. When we fly to the ball like that, we’re going to get those turnovers.”
The Scarlets’ strong finish belied a shaky opening act. No. 5 Rogers (10-2) stopped Mankato West’s opening drive, turning the Scarlets over on downs at the Royals’ 42-yard line.
Momentum stayed with Rogers. The offense moved the ball 58 yards in eight plays. Quarterback Tyson Vylasek’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Owen Kanzler produced a 7-0 lead.
“For us to come out and take it to them was a great start to the game,” Rogers’ coach Marc Franz said.
“They kind of punched us in the face in the beginning,” Helget said.
The Mankato West offense drew even in the first quarter. Then the defense started hitting back in the second quarter.
Ryan Haley scored three Scarlets’ touchdowns, two in less than one minute of action, as his team vaulted ahead 28-7.
First, Haley finished a drive with a 5-yard run for the go-ahead score.
Then Blackstad hit Vylasek in the pocket, creating a fumble which Haley recovered in the end zone.
Another Rogers turnover late in the second quarter, this time a Mekhi Collins interception, allowed Mankato West’s offense to add more points before halftime.
Quarterback Zander Dittbenner got loose for a 78-yard run to the Royals’ 11-yard line. Haley, taking a direct snap, capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
“It was a great feeling to get those three,” Haley said. “But it’s credit to our team.”
The defense stayed in hot pursuit of Vylasek in the second half. Gannon Rosenfeld unloaded from the blindside to force a third quarter fumble.Trenton Fontaine recovered his second fumble of the game, this one at the Rogers’ 49-yard line.
Mankato West’s offense padded the lead with a nearly seven-minute drive into the fourth quarter. For a second time, Dittbenner found Collins, this time from three yards out. And the Scarlets led 35-7.
Goettlicher’s 54-yard touchdown return allowed the defense to take a final triumphant bow.