Sanpete football teams take to the field; only Manti wins
By Robert Stevens and James Tilson
With fall just around the corner, the Templars, Hawks and Bulldogs are gearing up for the football season ahead.
Last year, Gunnison and Manti both finished with records of 3-7 overall and 2-3 in region. Gunnison took fourth in 2A North and while Manti came in fourth 3A South.
While Gunnison fell to Grand 63-21 in the first round of the 2A playoffs, Manti lasted until Morgan shut them out 20-0 in the 3A quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, the Hawks finished their season last year 4-5 overall and 1-4 in 3A South, leaving them fifth in 3A South. They did not qualify for the playoffs.
All three teams played their first game of the year on Friday. Home games all, Manti faced Carbon, Gunnison took on Milford and North Sanpete took the brunt of an onslaught by Tooele.
Manti started its season off well with a 21-14 win against Carbon. Returning junior running back Lance Fowles rushed for two touchdowns. Sophomore Jace Miller laced up an extra run-in score, while the efforts of Ivan Garcia of special teams helped sew up the victory.
Fowles and another returning running back, Tanner Rasmussen, will have to play for lead runner replacing Mac Stevens, who ran out of seasons to play last year.
Manti will be starting sophomore Travis Thompson as quarter back, but returning offensive linemen Brenton Thomson, Jett Jensen and Eli Butler will be on hand to help out.
The Templar defensive line is not green. While Rasmussen is the team’s top tackler when playing linebacker, Cooper Parry will be lending a hand. Thomson, Butler and Senu Latu are the returning defensive linemen.
This season will be Manti Templar head coach Cole Meacham’s 18th year. His overall record as Templar head coach is 125-62.
“We are working every day,” Meacham said in regards to this year’s strategy. “We are making some changes, diversifying the offense a little. There is a little bit of a learning curve, and we’re hoping to pull it off. It’s not there quite yet, but we’re going to get there.”
Friday’s game against Milford ended in a 49-14 loss for the Bulldogs.
Against Milford, Gunnison was mostly powerless, with its opponents mopping up more than a dozen points during each of the first three quarters.
Bulldog quarterback Kris Edwards was involved in both of the touchdowns the team made, a short run-in in the second quarter and a 6-yard pass to Caden Madsen in the fourth, after which Chance Helms dug through the line for the two-point conversion.
During 2016, Edwards tossed 1,821 yards and made 12 touchdowns. He also threw 13 picks. Look to returning wide receiver, senior Mike Hansen to be a hot target for Edwards’ throwing arm this year.
Gunnison High’s head coach is school alumni Jack Pay. This will be his third season. With the help of defensive coordinator Trent Halliday, Pay says he wants to ramp up the Bulldog defensive game this year.
There is not much to say about the Hawks season-opening shutout at the hands of Tooele. With a score of 41-0, it’s obvious North Sanpete was outgunned. In fact, the Hawks were behind 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Coach Rhett Bird said that coming in, the Hawks knew they had to limit mistakes to have a chance to win. “We knew they were a good team, and we couldn’t give them turnovers.”
Despite the loss, Bird praised quarterback Spencer Steadman. “He did what we taught him to do, made good passes and threw it away when he was supposed to. Other than the one bad mistake [an interception for a touchdown], he had a good game.” Steadman finished with 12 completions out of 24 throws for 77 yards passing.
Last year was the first year at the helm for Bird, who, like Pay, is an alumni of the school where he is coaching. In his first season, his team was 4-5, but with four returning starters on both the offensive and defensive line he aims to improve that record.
Steadman, a returning quarterback and a senior, threw 487 yards and four touchdowns last season before breaking his collarbone, which gave backup quarterback Chance Clawson a chance to start four games. Now the team has both players returning for some seriously seasoned offensive muscle.
Out of the defensive lineup, Payton Clawson, returns to the field following his first season, where he had 24 tackles, a sack and two interceptions. Bird says he is a key returner for defense. Clawson, a sophomore, looks ready to shine after spending an off-season in the weight room.
Two players will be missing from the Hawk lineup due to injuries. Freshman Connor Jorgensen is having knee surgery that will end his season before it begins. Shawn Taylor was involved in a four-wheeler accident that left him with some persistent head injuries. Taylor has decided to step away from Hawk ball to prevent further injury.
One of the new players to watch this year is Cesar Lemus, who will play both receiver and safety. Bird says he values that dual usefulness on the field.
Although the losses of Jorgensen and Taylor will hurt, Bird hopes to improve on last year with a gang of newbies and some strong returners.
All three teams have away games on Friday. Gunnison will travel to play North Sevier, North Sanpete goes on the road to Union, and Manti travels to Delta. Look for coverage in next week’s Messenger.