With only one week of current data to analyze and years of past performance to consider, the only way to describe Rochester Century’s performance against Mankato West last Friday is “shocking.”
The Scarlets came into the game ranked fourth in Class 5A and fresh off a blowout win over Rochester John Marshall to open the season.
Furthermore, Mankato West had owned the Panthers in recent history — winning the previous six meetings by an average score of 45-8 — and entered the game with its typical spread of college-bound athletes, including a Division I quarterback and two high-level receivers.
The Panthers, meanwhile, had suffered a humbling loss in Week 1 to top-ranked Owatonna and had more questions than answers coming into their home-opener.
Century, though, disregarded years of struggles against the red and white and soundly defeated the Scarlets, 35-14, in a Big Southeast District Red Division contest. The Scarlets led, 14-13, at the break before Century pinned 22 unanswered points on the board in the final 24 minutes. It should be noted that West’s quarterback, Jack Foster, missed the entire second half with a sprained ankle, which would only explain the struggles on offense.
As for the Scarlets’ defense, they allowed Isaiah Huber to run wild as the junior scored on a 75-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the game and, according to the Rochester Post Bulletin, finished with 203 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just 19 carries. A week prior against Owatonna, the Panthers netted negative rushing yards through the first three quarters before the OHS starters took a seat.
It’s still early, but it appears as though the Panthers will be one of the teams vying for a top two seed in Section 1-5A and a Red Division title.
On the other side of the coin, the jarring loss will not only send the Scarlets tumbling out of the Associated Press top 10, but raise a number of questions. Is Mankato West still a Section 2-5A contender? Where does the team go from here after losing to an opponent that had previously suffered a 37-point blowout defeat just seven days prior?
Reality always seems to fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. The Scarlets (1-1 overall, 1-1 Red Division) certainly aren’t as bad as as the final score might indicate and the Panthers (1-1, 1-1) probably aren’t as dominant, either. Still, 35-14 is an eye-opening outcome and Century is definitely a team to keep an eye on moving forward.
In other Red Division action, Owatonna’s next two opponents, New Prague and Rochester Mayo, squared off at the Trojans’ picturesque turf stadium in a game that wasn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter.
New Prague (1-1, 0-1) dominated first 35-plus minutes and led 21-7 before Mayo’s high-octane offense went to work. The Spartans (2-0, 2-0) drew within a single touchdown on the final play of the third quarter and added three more TDs in the fourth, two of which came in the game’s final three minutes. A pivotal play came with roughly two minutes left in the fourth quarter when Mayo converted a 4-and-long to keep a drive alive that eventually led to the go-ahead touchdown with 1 minute, 22 seconds on the clock.
In the final matchup featuring a Red Division team, it was Blue Division newcomer, Kasson-Mantorville, pulling away for a resounding 48-14 victory over Rochester John Marshall in the first football game ever played between a Rochester public school and one of its immediate surrounding communities. The Komets — who are a small Class 4A team — baffled the Rockets defense with its option attack and rang up more than 300 yards on the ground and led 21-0 after the first quarter.
According to the MSHSL, Rochester John Marshall (0-2) is the second-largest school in the district with 1,463 students while Kasson-Mantorville (1-1) is the smallest with 620.
Section 1-5A team, Austin, moved to 2-0 for just the second time in the last nine years with a solid 34-28 victory over Mankato East. Andy Chesak rolled up 271 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns as the Packers scored all of their touchdowns in the final three quarters. The Cougars (1-1) — who came into the game having defeated Kasson-Mantorville in Week 1 — finished with 401 total yards in the defeat.
In other action, state-ranked Winona defeated Faribault, 38-6, and Albert Lea took down Red Wing, 42-21.