Manti Templars prevail over scrappy Richfield Wildcats 12-9
MANTI—On Friday the 13th, with a full moon overlooking the proceedings, the Manti Templars pulled out a victory in a hard-fought defensive struggle against the Richfield Wildcats, 12-9.
At various times during the game, it seemed that both teams were looking for ways to give away the game, with numerous penalties and mistakes marring the struggle. Neither teams’ offense was able to put together a sustained drive. Turnovers often preceded scores.
“There wasn’t a lot of high-powered offense either way,” said Manti Coach Cole Meachum, referring to the bye week coming before the game. “I know it helps the kids physically to have a week off, but with Homecoming week, it seemed to affect their ability to gel and focus.”
The game started by Manti taking advantage of their own defensive prowess, forcing Richfield to punt from deep in their own territory and getting a return to the Richfield 33-yard line. From there, the Templars were able to grind out two first downs, and then kick a field goal to go ahead 3-0.
That ended the offensive output for almost all of the rest of the half, as both teams traded three-and-outs for the rest of the first and second quarter. But just before the half ended, Manti forced a turnover on downs, and got the ball back on the Richfield 48. Two plays later, Manti quarterback Jax Parry found Austin Cox streaking over the middle and placed the ball perfectly in his hands to score the game’s first touchdown, making it 10-0 at the half.
To begin the second half, the weird magic of Friday the 13th struck, and a bizarre set of circumstances resulted in Richfield’s first score. At the end of the first half, the Richfield coach had argued with the referees about a clock issue, and the Wildcats were assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty to start the half. Thus, the Wildcats kicked off from the 25-yard line.
Manti’s two returners, Tyson Brenchley and Tyler Taukei’aho, readied to catch the kick, but both thought the other had it. Instead, it bounced between them and Richfield recovered. That, added to a personal foul penalty on the same play, put the Wildcats at the Manti 15-yard line. From there, Richfield pushed it in to make it 10-6.
The Templars shook themselves off, and got back into the game. Richfield and Manti traded possession through the rest of the third quarter, until late in the quarter when Manti took advantage of a bad Wildcat decision. After a Templar punt, the Wildcats fielded the kick on their own 1-yard line, and were tackled promptly. Three plays later, and the Templars scored a safety, 12-6.
But Manti couldn’t stand prosperity. On their next possession, their punt was blocked and the Wildcats took over at the Manti 22-yard line. Richfield drove down, but were held to only a field goal, drawing the Wildcats closer, 12-9.
But that was the end of the scoring, as neither team could make any headway. Richfield was not able to mount any further scoring threats, and Manti was able to run out the clock.
The Manti faithful had to wipe away the sweat after the game, as the outcome was in doubt until the very end. “There were dozens of big plays that turned the game,” said Meachum. “It was grind-it-out, and then big play. But our guys played tough when they needed to, and got it done.”
This week, Manti travels to Delta to take on the Rabbits. It will do so as the No. 1 ranked team in 3A, according to the UHSAA RPI rankings that came out this week. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.