MT. PLEASANT— Another chapter of the ever-entertaining Manti-North Sanpete football rivalry played out last Friday, with the Hawks earning a potentially season-saving win.
The North Sanpete football team took full control in the second and third quarters with 21 unanswered points as the Hawks prevailed over the visiting Manti Templars, 28-20, in front of a blacked-out Homecoming crowd, moving to 3-5 overall and securing their first 3A South victory to move to 1-2 in region play.
Manti dropped to 3-5 overall with a 2-1 record in the 3A South.
After uncharacteristically struggling for much of the season, North Sanpete senior quarterback Landon Bowles looked fantastic for the Hawks as he assaulted the Manti defense to the tune of 19-37 passing for 304 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. “This is a huge confidence builder for him,” North Sanpete Coach Rhett Bird said. “Ty Allan actually took a few of the reps, and I think that takes a little pressure off of Landon. They were having a ball out there.”
Bowles also had a touchdown on the ground as the Hawks collected 53 yards rushing on 22 carries. In the receiving game, senior Kolby Robinson was unstoppable as he caught seven passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Manti had three different players throw the ball, but they were led by junior Kayson Douglas, who went 10-27 for 75 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Senior A.J. Cox led the Templars on the ground with four carries for 65 yards, mostly in a 59-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
North Sanpete returned six starters against Manti from injury or suspension, including senior linebacker Andy Mower, who was a monster on defense all game long. Manti Coach Cole Meacham said it was a significant factor in the outcome. “We knew there were some kids back,” Meacham said. “We didn’t know what to plan on. We just planned with what we saw on film.”
“Andy played so awesome,” Bird said. “He’s just been so bought in to what we’ve asked him to do these last few weeks, and it showed. He played like we knew he could play all year long.”
Manti got tricky on the first play of the game as Larson Pogroszewski hefted a double pass downfield from a completion inside the 30-yard line. Nevertheless, Manti turned over on downs inside the red zone as the Hawks pass defense smothered the Templars’ routes.
“Overall, the offense just didn’t get clicking,” Meacham said. “There were times that we got behind the sticks or didn’t hit open receivers…the offense just didn’t get clicking.”
North Sanpete’s first drive began on their own 17-yard line, but Bowles took a sack from Manti senior A.J. Cox on third down and fumbled the ball, giving possession back to the Templars inside the Hawks’ 20. Yet again, the Hawks’ defense showed up strong and let the Templars scoreless after a turnover on downs.
A few possessions later, Bowles opened fire on the Manti secondary. Called for holding and facing a long field on third down, Bowles hit senior Andy Mower on an in route, and Mower trucked through the defense to get the first down and more. A pass interference penalty on fourth down preserved the Hawks’ drive, and Bowles delivered a strike to Morgan Bowles in the end zone to get North Sanpete on the board with a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Manti fumbled right back to the Hawks on the very next play from scrimmage, but it was the Templars’ turn to come up big on defense as they withheld the first down and forced the Hawks into a long field goal, which senior Dante Lowe missed short and wide left, the beginning of a tough night for the kicker in which he missed three field goals, despite hitting all four extra points.
Manti committed to the run on their next drive and took chunks of yards at a time, assisted by a cluster of defensive offside penalties. Manti finally got in the end zone as Douglas took a 25-yard shot at the end zone for junior Scott Lee, who adjusted on the throw to haul in the catch in coverage with six minutes remaining. Manti failed the two-point conversion to preserve the 7-6 lead for North Sanpete.
North Sanpete answered back quickly on their next drive as senior Kolby Robinson, caught a dig route and took it over 60 yards to get the Hawks inside the Manti 5-yard line, setting up a keeper by Bowles for a 5-yard touchdown run on a draw left.
Receiving the kick after halftime, North Sanpete’s offense went right back to work and picked up chunk yardage on a string of big plays down to the Manti 20. After a few penalties back and forth, Bowles delivered a pass to the corner of the endzone into double coverage, and Morgan Bowles jumped over head of both defenders to haul in the score for a 21-6 lead.
Manti’s first shot on offense in the second half didn’t look to be going anywhere, but the punting unit came up big by recovering a muffed punt. Manti then got a flag in their favor for pass interference and went in on the passing game. Douglas completed a pair of throws to get inside the 30. After another pass interference penalty got Manti down to the 11-yard line, North Sanpete tightened up their pass defense and deflected would-be touchdown passes on third and fourth down to steal the wind from the Templars’ sails.
A few possessions later, Robinson came up big again as Bowles hit him on the dig route. Robinson outran the Templars entire secondary for an 18-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach, 28-6.
With less than two minutes remaining and the defensive subs in for North Sanpete, Meacham sent in freshman quarterback Maison Starkweather to close out the game. Manti got all the way down inside the 5-yard line to score on a keeper by Starkweather from 2 yards out.
Manti’s onside kick proved successful with 8 seconds left, allowing Starkweather another possession. Starkweather stepped back and fired a 37-yard touchdown pass to Strickland in the endzone, all of a sudden making it a one-score game.
With less than 2 seconds left, Manti tried to recover the kick again, but North Sanpete had none of it as they recovered and ran out the clock to secure the win.
“The kids were able to walk out of there feeling good, feeling like we did get something moving in the end,” Meacham said. “We went down fighting, we didn’t lay down and quit, we gave it everything we had.”
The Hawks will be on the road this Friday, heading to Cedar City to take on Canyon View.
The Templars will return home this Friday to face Richfield.