Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Here comes the Jug

Mankato East takes on Mankato West at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Blakeslee Stadium, and while many don't think the annual crosstown game will be competitive, it's always an exciting atmosphere.
Undefeated West, ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA, is the heavy favorite. The offense, led by junior quarterback Philip Nelson, is averaging more than 40 points per game while allowing only 20 points to seven opponents. No opponent has had two scores of any kind in a game.
It all starts with Nelson, who has completed nearly 75 percent of his passes for more than 1,500 yards with 22 touchdowns, just eight short of the program's single-season record established by Ray Teachout in 2008. Nelson already holds the careee record of 51 touchdown passes, and with another season, he could make that mark untouchable.
East has to keep Nelson, who is also the Scarlets' leading rusher, in check and not let receivers Nick Kaus, Hunter Friesen and Des Spann run free. East can't get into a shootout, though West's defense probably wouldn't allow that.
East needs to control the clock with its running game, which a couple of weeks ago, produced two 16-play drives in a victory over Winona. However, West is tough to run on up the middle so quarterback Abe Kolstad and running back Tevyn Schmidt may need to get some yards on their own..
East leads the Jug series 22-15, though West has won the last four. Last season, West prevailed 51-0 on a muddy Todnem Field.
A victory would give West at least a share of its second straight Big Nine Conference championship. The Scarlets have already locked up the No. 1 seed in Section 2AAAA and a first-round bye.
A victory for East probably wouldn't be enough to move the Cougars up to No. 4 in the section and a home game in the first round, but it would be a huge confidence boost for the playoffs.
Given how many people have attended home games at Todnem Field and Wolverton Field this season, there could be a nice crowd Wednesday. The presale of tickets didn't produce much so if you go, you'd better get there early or the ticket line might be pretty long.

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