By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
Owatonna was going to run the ball Friday night. That was a given.
But when Mankato West couldn’t match the offense, there were early signs of trouble.
“They came out tough,” senior linebacker Tyler Jakes said. “We knew they were a tough, physical team, and they showed us on the first drive that they were ready to play.”
Owatonna outgained West 401-114 in total yards and won 28-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA football playoffs Friday night at Lakeville North High School. It was a game that could have been more lopsided had the defense not held tough several times in the Scarlets’ end.
“We put the defense in some tough spots,” West coach Mark Esch said. “Offensively, we just struggled. Tough night.”
Owatonna, the Big Nine Conference champions, set the tone on the first drive, a nine-play possession that started with eight running plays. The first pass was complete and Owatonna went up 7-0.
The Huskies had the field-position advantage for the entire first half as the Huskies added two field goals and another 12-play drive that featured all running plays which made it 20-0 at halftime.
West had only 39 yards of offense in the first half, getting sacked three times. Owatonna had 216 yards rushing in the first half as Aaron Peterson had 25 carries for 172 yards at the break.
“We were in some tough spots out there (defensively),” Jakes said. “But we played our hearts out. Owatonna was the better team tonight.”
In the second half, Owatonna’s size was too much for West, though the defense kept the game at 20-0 until midway through the final quarter. West had a chance to break the shutout in the final minute, but the last drive ended at the 13.
“We made too many mistakes,” Esch said. “A lot of penalties. It looked like they were the more experienced team out there.”
West’s Trenton Marks rushed for 86 yards to gain most of the offense. Quarterback Ryan Schlichte completed 9 of 34 passes for 61 yards.
“I think they were stronger than us on the perimeter,” Esch said. “I thought we were more athletic, but they were more physical. We’re going to need to get in the weight room and get stronger on the perimeter.”
Owatonna’s Aaron Peterson did the most damage, carrying 43 times for 269 yards. He had 301 yards in the section championship game against Rochester Mayo.
Owatonna (11-0) advances to the state semifinals Friday at the Metrodome to play St. Thomas Academy. West finishes the season at 4-7, though it would have been 8-3 without the forfeits.
“Any time you get to state, it’s a good season,” Jakes said. “Sometimes, you take success for granted, but we overcame a lot of adversity and made a good run.”