Manti Templars almost beat top ranked Juan Diego in 21-17 football battle
By Bob Bahlmann
MANTI—When Juan Diego, the top-ranked team in 3A football, came to Manti last Friday, it was the heavy favorite to win the game.
The Templars nearly took the game away from the Soaring Eagle with five fumble recoveries. Unfortunately, Manti gave up nearly 300 rushing yards in the second half and ended up with a 21-17 loss.
Although known for a high-powered running game, Juan Diego got off to a slow start when Manti’s Mac Stevens recovered a fumble on the Soaring Eagle’s first possession.
Looking at fourth and goal from the 1-yard line, Manti coach Cole Meacham was screaming for a timeout, but the only people who didn’t hear were wearing stripped shirts.
The Templars were flagged for a procedure violation and then, on the next play, delaying the game. They settled for a field goal attempt that went wide left.
Sacks by Stevens and Connor Meacham stopped the next Juan Diego drive and forced a punt. The Templars moved the ball into field-goal range again, and this time, Ivan Garcia split the uprights for a 3-0 Manti lead.
Juan Diego took the lead early in the second quarter on a 9-yard TD run, but the Templar defense took control of the final 11 minutes, with fumble recoveries by Stevens, Seni Latu and Austin Robinson preventing any additional scoring by the Soaring Eagle.
Manti regained the lead on a 1-yard second-effort run by Stevens to go ahead 10-7 at the half. The Templar defense limited Juan Diego to only 15 first-half plays compared to 42 attempts by Manti.
In the second half, Juan Diego got its running game going, gaining 275 yards on 39 runs to control the tempo of the game.
But it was Manti that scored first in the third period. Forcing a Templar punt, a Juan Diego player got a hand on the kick, and the ball, live after being touched by a defensive player, fluttered downfield where Lance Fowles scooped it up. Following the urging of the Manti coaching staff, Fowles took off down the sideline for a touchdown and a 17-7 Templar lead.
Alas, that was to be the final score for Manti while Juan Diego pounded the ball downfield for two more touchdowns and the four-point win.
Before the game coach Meacham said the Templars would need to control the Juan Diego running game. Manti was able to do that in the first half by forcing turnovers, but still gave up about 7 yards per carry on the game. Juan Diego had 366 yard on the ground.
Tanner Rasmussen led the Manti defense with 12 tackles, Michael Alder had seven and Cort Olson had five. Nate Lee and Sam Tiatia had four each.
Meanwhile, Manti averaged 4.6 yards per carry for 227 yards rushing. Stevens rushed for 90 yards, Fowles had 63, Marshall Dotson ran for 31, Lee had 20, Parry Cooper had 12 and Robinson had 11.
Dotson completed five of nine passes for 45 yards. Stevens and Fowles had two receptions each for 27 and 12 yards respectively, while Cooper caught one for six yards.
This week will be another tough test for the Templars when Pine View visits Manti. The Panthers are ranked second in 3AA and are coming off two big wins.
They beat Judge Memorial, 34-7, in their opening game and knocked over Uintah, 47-3, last week. Pine View has been averaging around 500 offensive yards per game. The team’s passing and rushing yardage is identical at 238 yards per game rushing and 255 passing.