For 24 minutes, Chaska was repeating the recipe that led them to section championships over Mankato West in 2018 and 2019. Dominating defense, not allowing the Scarlets an inch.
Forty-five yards allowed in the first half. Fifteen points scored over the final 121 seconds before halftime. The Hawks led 15-3 at the break on Nov. 20 in the 2020 season finale at Todnem Field.
The second half, though, was all Scarlets, which scored 19 unanswered points to win 22-15 to cap an unbeaten season at 6-0.
Large chunks through the air helped Mankato West take its first lead since early on as Zander Dittberner hit Buom Jock and Mekhi Collins for touchdown throws and the 16-15 lead with 5:52 to play.
Chaska, held to a 3-and-out on the ensuing drive, picked off a fourth Dittberner pass, an unlikely interceptor in interior lineman Josh Baughman, for a golden chance with 3:24 on the clock.
Close to field goal range, a low snap pushed the ball back on first down to the Scarlet 34. The next play, Brayden Sanders, making his second start at quarterback, had a deep pass intercepted for the second time by West cornerback Peyton Goettlicher.
Following a 68-yard scramble from Dittberner, Chaska elected to allow West to score, a 29-yard run untouched from Wyatt Block to extend the lead to 22-15 after the missed extra point with 1:37 remaining.
Armed with two timeouts, 76 yards to go, Chaska saw its season end on a short catch and a trio of of incompletions.
After totaling 115 yards of offense in the first half, Chaska was held to 14 and 35 yards over the final two quarters, respectively.
Mankato West got on the board first with a 33-yard field goal. Chaska, stopped on 4th-and-18 on the next drive, used a little trickery to keep the ball.
Ethan Bachmann, trotting off, stopped short of the sideline, unmarked in the confusion. Recognizing this, Sanders, in the punt formation, took the quick snap and lofted a pass downfield to Bachmann for the 34-yard gain.
Sanders hit another Hawk target, Spencer Goetz, left all alone from his tight end position in the end zone for the 11-yard score and 6-3 lead on the wide left kick with 2:01 left in the first half.
Two plays later, it was Goetz again, this time at linebacker intercepting a Dittberner pass and returning it 40 yards for the 12-3 Chaska lead.
A second Chaska interception on the next play from Jack Frick on an under-thrown deep ball aided the Hawks in getting into field-goal position, a strong 39-yard kick from Snuggerud -- holder Frick placing the ball on the grass rather than a flat tee -- for the 15-3 halftime score.
Mankato West got back in the game in the second half through the air. Twice the Scarlets picked up fourth-down conversions on the opening drive, first on a scramble and the second on a 13-yard throw on 1-on-1 coverage on the outside.
Chaska's defense held the 15-10 lead, first on a Grant Sussner interception before the senior safety made a tackle on the edge on a fourth-down run inside the Hawks' 10.
Chaska, held without a first down in the third quarter, got a break to begin the final quarter. A fumble found the hands of Snuggerud for a 17-yard gain and the chains were moving.
Jack Boyle, who rushed for 99 on a team-high 19 carries, and Dewandis Youmans, pushed the ball into Scarlet territory. After a Mankato West timeout, Chaska was stopped behind the line of scrimmage twice, an incomplete pass giving the Scarlets the ball back.
Mankato West didn't waste any time. Following a short run, Dittberner connected with receivers Max Goertzen and Brady Haugum for 28 and 29 yards. An 11-yard throw and catch from Dittberner to Collins put the Scarlets ahead at 16-15.
Linebackers Nathan Schwarz and Max Hatfield stood out for a defensive unit that gave Chaska every chance to win. Schwarz often times pressured Dittberner with Hatfield making a team-high seven tackles.
Chaska finished the 2020 season with a 4-3 record.