Mahtomedi faces Mankato West’s daunting defense in Prep Bowl

Mahtomedi linebacker Billy Arlandson runs with the ball after intercepting a pass against Rochester Mayo. The Zephyrs face another Big Nine team, unbeaten Mankato West, in the Prep Bowl.

Mankato West, unbeaten, top-ranked, and very difficult to score against, will be Mahtomedi’s opponent in the Prep Bowl on Saturday.

The Scarlets (12-0) crushed No. 5 ranked Rogers 42-7 in the Class 5A semifinals on Saturday night at U.S. Bank. Unranked Mahtomedi beat Robbinsdale Cooper 33-7 in the other semifinal Friday.

Mahtomedi (10-2) will seek its second state title and Mankato West will seek its fifth when they clash Saturday, 4 p.m., in the championship game. This will be Mahtomedi’s fourth title game. The Zephyrs were champions in 2007, and runners-up in 2006 and 2008.

Mankato West’s defense is especially daunting. Against Rogers, the Scarlets shook loose four fumbles, intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown, and made three quarterback sacks.

The Scarlets have allowed just eight touchdowns in 12 games, posting seven shutouts. They have made 44 sacks and 19 interceptions. Ryan Haley has notched 33 tackles-for-loss and 14 sacks, Gannon Rosenfield 24 TFL’s and 14 sacks, and Gibson Blackstad 16 TFL’s and seven sacks. Eight different players have intercepted passes.

Scarlet quarterback Zander Dittbenner has passed for 1,684 yards and 32 touchdowns. Mekhi Collins, also a basketball star, has 19 touchdown catches. Top rusher is Walker Britz with 1,129 yards and 11 touchdowns. Dittbenner is dangerous on the run also with 409 yards with six TD’s.

Mankato West will be the second Big Nine team Mahtomedi has faced. The Zephyrs beat Big Nine runner-up Rochester Mayo 42-20 in the quarterfinals. Mankato West handed Mayo its only other loss 30-6.

Both teams had a close game with St. Thomas Academy. Mankato West handed the Cadets their lone loss 21-14 in the state quarterfinals. Mahtomedi lost to the Cadets 18-13 on the final play on Oct. 8.

Mahtomedi’s rushing leaders are Jordan Hull with 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns, and Nicholas Beiersdorf with 601 yards and eight touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Charles Brandt has passed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for six TD’s.

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