Football Night: Mankato West hand Winhawks first defeat, secure conference title

Defending state champion Mankato West had an answer for everything and handed Winona its first loss of the season 42-19 to claim the Big Southeast Blue conference championship at Paul Giel Field on Friday.

Mankato West (8-0, 5-0) did not punt in the game and converted on fourth down on 3-of-5 chances.

Charles Terry got the scoring started with a 44-yard touchdown reception from Robert Meidl to put the Scarlets up 7-0 with 3:44 to go in the opening quarter. Zachary Jakes then blocked a Winhawks punt which set up Meidl’s second scoring pass of the game to Brock Annexstad from 13 yards out to give Mankato West a 14-0 cushion early in the second.

Winona (7-1, 4-1) had only one first down on four drives before its fifth possession that ended with a seven-yard touchdown toss from P.J. Appicelli to Matt Schoh that pulled WSHS within a touchdown, 14-7 with 5:45 remaining in the half.

Mankato West stormed right back, running the ball up the middle for big chunks of yardage on a six-play, 59-yard drive that culminated in a two-yard scoring run from Meidl to make it 21-7 with 2:51 left before the break.

The Winhawks charged right back down the field, however, fueled largely by a 38-yard catch from Jared Boelter to the Scarlets’ 20-yard line. Winona handled the clock effectively and finished the drive on Tanner Remlinger’s 11th rushing touchdown of the season with 21 seconds left to make it 21-13 with 21 seconds remaing on the first-half clock. Mankato West blocked the point after.

On the first drive of the third, Mankato West again converted on fourth down before a pass interference call on Boelter put the ball at the Winhawks’ 19-yard line. Terry found the end zone for the second time with a nine-yard run to complete an 11-play, 62-yard drive that ate up more than half of the quarter and left 5:58 on the clock.

Once again, Winona came right back down the field behind a 27-yard reception from Joshua Bade and a leaping catch by Logan Smith down to the Scarlets’ 1-yard line before Appicelli ran it in to make it 28-19 with 4:50 left in the third. Winona’s two-point conversion failed.

Terry picked up his third touchdown of the game on an eight-yard run with 50 seconds left in the third and Mankato West put it away in the fourth when Van Neils scored his 13th touchdown of the season to make it 42-19 with 3:50 left in the game.

Boelter intercepted Zack Annexstad in the fourth quarter, the first pick thrown by the Mankato West signal caller on the season.

Winona’s 19 points were the most scored on the Scarlets this season. They have previously given up 18 to Austin on September 11.

Mankato West have now won 13 consecutive games dating back to last season and their 42 points represent the most Winona surrendered throughout the regular season. The Winhawks had given up 21 points to Northfield on September 18.

Stewartville (8-0) secured the top seed in the Class 1AAAA Section playoffs with a 42-0 win over Rochester Lourdes, while the Winhawks will get the #2 seed and a first-round bye. The Winhawks will face the winner of Albert Lea (0-8) and Red Wing (5-3), a game which will be played at Paul Giel Field on October 20 at 7 p.m..

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