Ryan Schlichte accounts for 3 scores; Mankato West tops Simley 42-19 for Class 5A championship

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MINNEAPOLIS — Locked into a tight state title game, Mankato West never doubted itself.

Ryan Schlichte threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the Scarlets beat Simley 42-19 for the Class 5A football championship Saturday at the Prep Bowl.

Van Neils had 128 yards rushing and one touchdown for third-ranked Mankato West (12-1), which won its fourth title. Connor Watts ran for two scores and caught a third.

"We can score at will with anybody we want, but I know our defense is going to shut them down because they've done that all season," said Schlichte. "I'm just so proud."

The Scarlets averaged 48.8 points per game this year and allowed 15.2.

In its first title game, unranked Simley (10-4) was led by Michael Avwunuma, who rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns.

Schlichte finished 17-of-25 passing for 192 yards.

"We all complete each other. He has several options to throw to and we all have a great relationship with each other," said Watts, who had nine receptions for 108 yards.

Leading by two after Avwunuma scored from 10 yards out for Simley, Schlichte engineered a 13-play, 68-yard drive in the third quarter that was capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jon Pytlak. Schlichte completed all five passes on the drive and ran for 16 yards.

After a three-and-out by the Spartans, Schlichte led an 8-play, 59-yard drive before scoring from 5 yards out for a 35-19 lead.

"That was the big one," said coach Mark Esch. "Once we got up two scores we could just feel our confidence start to grow, our defense played better as a result. It was fun."

In the second half the Scarlets had the ball for nearly 6 more minutes and ran 37 plays to Simley's 24.

"There's not one side of the ball that's better than the other," Watts said.

Down 21-13, and with the final seconds ticking off in the first half, Simley was stopped at the goal line when Michael Busch was smothered at the line of scrimmage by Charlie Schwartz.

"That was a huge stop and we went in with momentum," Esch said.

Mankato West led 14-7 after one quarter, but Avwunuma burst through the line and sprinted 35 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter. The extra point was blocked.

Neils put the Scarlets up 21-13 with a 7-yard run late in the second quarter.

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