Football: Mankato East hands Red Wing a winless regular season
For six minutes on Friday, there was a lot of hope on the home sideline of Russ “Cougar” Marshall Field. Red Wing had a six-point lead, and the ball, against one of the top three teams in the Big Southeast Blue District.
But Mankato East, which has been close to victories against Winona and Mankato West, found its footing soon after, putting the Wingers in a massive hole by halftime on its way to a 48-20 victory.
“They did some pretty good things offensively where they had some running backs they hit us inside with, and then they'd adjust to what we were doing and they threw into the flats,” said Red Wing co-head coach Kyle Blahnik. “They just executed at a level that we weren't able to handle in the first half. But the kids came out and played a lot better in the second half and adjusted to what they were trying to do.”
Jawon Terry got the scoring started with an 82-yard interception return after he picked off the wayward pass of East's Richard Kamara just over a minute into the game. On the Cougars next drive, Red Wing again took the ball away when Desmond Bassett put the ball on the ground deep in Winger territory.
But the Wingers had to punt on that drive, like they would three more times before halftime.
Hidden under the early defensive touchdown and plus-two turnover margin was East's ability to move the ball at will. The Cougars had 16 yards in two plays before the interception, and had 43 more in their second drive, overcoming two penalties, before the ball hit the grass.
After that, East took care of the ball and Red Wing.
Kaje Warren put the Cougars up for good at 4:37 of the first on a five-yard run. Just more than two minutes later, Kamara and Bassett hooked up for 35 yards and a 14-6 lead. Then, with 23 seconds left in the opening stanza, the Kamara to Bassett connection proved costly once again as the duo hit on one of those flat passes for 43 yards and another score.
In the second quarter, Caleb Miller scored at 8:01, Warren at 4:54 and Tanner Stengel, from Kamara, at 1:27. Meanwhile, the Wingers managed 20 yards of offense, entering halftime down 42-6.
The second half was better for Red Wing as Kamara took a seat, along with Bassett and the rest of the East air attack. But with the Cougars trying the ground game to grind the clock, the Wingers stepped up.
East scored on Carson Ruschmeyer's one-yard dive at 2:18 of the third, but was shutout otherwise. And Red Wing took advantage of a couple of big plays. The first was from quarterback Marcus Walm, a long throw to Seth Cushing that set up a Seth Morem touchdown at 11:18 of the fourth, and a Mac DeSutter 25-yard return of a blocked punt from teammate Amire Sutherlin.
“I'm not sure it was anything the coaches said anything at halftime, the guys just decided it was time to play better, more impassioned football. I think that's positive going into the first round of section playoffs next week. Hopefully we can carry that into four quarters on Tuesday,” Blahnik said. “Because that second half was some pretty good football from us.”
Kamara ended up with 199 yards on 9 of 12 passing with three scores and an interception. Bassett had six catches for 127 yards and two scores while Stengel had a touchdown and 63 yards on three receptions.
Morem led the Wingers with 33 yards on 10 carries, with Walm and David Howe combining for two completions for 65 yards. Howe had a 16 pass to Terry while also throwing an interception.
Next for Red Wing (0-8) is a Section 1AAAA quarterfinal on Tuesday, likely at Kasson-Mantorville. The KoMets (6-2) have losses to Stewartville and third-ranked (Class 3A) Rochester Lourdes, and have scored 33 points in six of eight games.
“The coaches are going to come in (Wednesday) and we're going to do our best job coming up with a gameplan,” Blahnik said. “I think we've been around these kids the whole season, we've had them in class, in other sports for a while now, so we know which buttons to push to get the best out of them. I think we'll have something good set up for them when they come back Friday for practice. In spurts this year, we've shown we can be a pretty good football team. We just have to put it together for an extended period of time.”