Sep. 14—The Mankato East football team made a commitment during the offseason, and it seems to be paying off.
For the first time since 2001, the Cougars are 2-0. They are ranked No. 11 in the first Associated Press' Class AAAAA poll.
"We asked more of our players this offseason than we have in any other offseason, and it's nice to see them enjoying the rewards of their hard work," coach Eric Davis said. "But it's a start, not a finishing point. I think people thought they knew what we'd be, and maybe they're think differently about us right now."
The Cougars play at Chaska (0-2) on Friday, starting a stretch of four section games in the next five weeks that will likely determine postseason seeding.
"We know (Chaska will) be ready to play," Davis said. "They only lost three games all of last year so you know they'll be fighting like crazy not to have a third loss."
The Cougars have relied heavily on the run game, with Rafe Bowman, a former quarterback, gaining 333 yards and five touchdowns. It's the most rushing yards for a Cougar after two games since Kenthen King, who set a team record with 301 yards rushing against Detroit Lakes in the 2008 opener.
"He can run all of our schemes," Davis said. "And the offensive line has a year under its belt. After taking some lumps last season, they're really playing well."
The offensive line includes five returning starters: left tackle Braden Petzel, center Max Morgan, right guard Ainsley Stubbs, right tackle Beck Severson and tight end Tyler Gropel. Left guard Bennett Stevermer was a rotational player in the offensive line last season.
The Cougars are averaging 31.0 points and 232.5 yards rushing after victories against St. Louis Park and Apple Valley. Quarterback Ganden Gosch has completed 24 of 42 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, with Brogan Madson catching 16 passes for 122 yards and a score.
Levi Keim-Wolfe is the top tackler with 10.
"I'm happy with the progress we've made," Davis said. "The players have been very committed. You want to position yourself in September so you're playing your best football in the second half of the season."
Mankato West was ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA in this week's Associated Press football poll, which is voted on by a state media panel. The Scarlets have won 27 of its last 28 games and has won 25 consecutive regular-season games.
Section 2AAAAA rival Chanhassen was No. 1 with a first-place vote. Brainerd also received a first-place vote.
West plays at Chanhassen on Sept. 29.
In Class AAAA, New Ulm (2-0) was ranked 10th. The Eagles were just 2-7 last season and 5-20 in the last three seasons.
Waseca (1-1) received votes in Class AAA, as did Minnesota Valley Lutheran (2-0) in Class AA and New Ulm Cathedral (2-0) in nine-man. This is Cathedral's first season as a nine-man program.
Games to watch
Marshall plays at Waseca. Waseca is 1-1, with an opening loss at Stewartville and a home win against St. Peter. The series is 2-2 over the last four years, with Marshall winning 8-7 last season for Waseca's only regular-season loss. Marshall is 1-1 with a loss to Jordan and a win over Willmar.
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.