MANTI—The last time the Manti boys’ soccer team had 12 wins in the regular season, Donald Trump had just declared his presidential candidacy.
Now, six years later, under head coach Dane Pollock, the Templars are 12-2, getting their 12th regular season win for the first time since the spring of 2015. Manti picked up wins last week over Maeser Prep, 3-2, on Wednesday, and over American Leadership Academy, 4-0, on Friday.
“I’m really pleased with the team,” Pollock said. “They come to practice focused with a goal to push each other and to improve each day. They have really grabbed onto the team aspect and work to succeed as a team.”
Last week’s 2-0 record was part of a nine-game winning streak for the Templars playing under Pollock, who is in his second year at the head of the soccer team, although he has been with the program before then, according to MaxPreps.
“We are very excited about the way the season is going,” Pollock said. “We still have a lot to work on and feel if we can get our team to improve their game, good things can happen.”
Prior to being intentionally obscured before the upcoming bracket release, latest RPI rankings by the UHSAA put Manti squarely in the No. 2 spot. Even more reason for optimism, they were just behind Delta, whom the Templars split the season series with, claiming a 2-1 win in their most recent matchup.
While there are numerous teams that are serious contenders for the 3A state championship this year, Manti’s statistical leaders have carved out a league of their own. Senior striker Trace Boggess is the fourth-best scorer in Utah with 20 goals in 14 games, including four hat tricks.
“Trace is a special player. Trace has great speed, touch on the ball and he knows how to find the back of the net,” Pollock said. “Even though he scores at a high rate, he is unselfish and works to get the team the best opportunity. He works hard every day to improve himself and his teammates through his work ethic, communication and leadership.”
Junior midfielder Juan Palmerin is also ahead of the pack in a different way. With 12 assists on the year, he is in fourth-best assist man in the state, and the best in 3A.
“Juan is someone every coach would want to coach,” Pollock said. “He is someone who works on his game constantly. He is extremely coachable and has great vision of the field. He really works to set his teammates up to give them the best chance to succeed. Many times, Juan could try and take the ball himself, but when he sees a better chance for a teammate, he shares the ball which leads to much of his success.”
The Templars have scored 40 goals this season, averaging just over 2 goals per game. Of those 40, 26 of them were assisted. Against Maeser Prep last week, another one of those assisted goals glimmered like gold.
With only 10 minutes of regulation time left, Maeser Prep scored twice, the second of which came in impressive fashion as one Lion defender launched it from near midfield for a spectacular header from another Lion right into the back of the net. Suddenly, the game was tied with about five minutes left, and it soon went to overtime.
With a 10-minute overtime period winding down to the last minute, it was looking like there would be more soccer to play. Then, Tinoco crossed midfield with 20 seconds remaining and passed it to Boggess, who kicked it out right to Palmerin for a shot at the goal.
Palmerin’s shot was blocked by a defender, but Boggess came over and recovered.
Boggess then found junior Marcos Frutos in the middle of the chaos, passed it to him, and Frutos delivered an easy strike as the ball bounced in for the golden goal with six seconds left in the overtime period.
It was Frutos’s second goal of the entire season. His first was just the week before against North Sanpete. It was Boggess’s third assist.
Claiming a series sweep over the Lions, Manti then stayed home last Friday and claimed another as they walked over American Leadership.
This one was signature Manti. Boggess scored two goals, Palmerin had another and had two assists, and there was, of course, the shutout, as senior goalie Shane Arnoldsen and the Templar defense recorded their sixth. Manti’s defense has allowed more than one goal only three times this season.
Pollock said the defense is a point of pride for seniors Austin Cox, Kaleb Tanner and Trace’s brother Braden Boggess. “They take extreme pride in not letting the other team even shoot the ball,” Pollock said. “It has been difficult for teams to get many chances to score on these defenders.”
Pollock had high praise for Arnoldsen, his three-year starter in the net. “You couldn’t ask for a better goalie…everyday he is asking questions on how to get better,” Pollock said. “He constantly works on his skills in the goal and many times this year has had big saves.”
The Templars are looking every bit like contenders for the first time in several years. Unfortunately for coverage purposes, a particularly key game for their schedule took place after press time last Monday against Grand County, a top-5 RPI team. The Messenger will have more on that game next week.
Manti concludes their regular season at home against Union this Tuesday.