MANTI—There have certainly been better homecomings in Manti football history than the one last Friday.
Manti got on the board early but was subsequently overwhelmed by a surging Richfield team as the Templars were crushed, 30-7, in front of fans and alumni last Friday. The loss dropped the Templars to 3-5 overall and 2-2 in the 3A South with a game remaining, guaranteeing a losing regular season.
The Wildcats began region play earlier in the season as the worst RPI team in 3A, but since that time, they have been one of the best teams in 3A with wins over Manti and North Sanpete and a last-second loss against Juab. Head coach Cole Meacham said the Templars knew they were playing host to a 3A contender.
“We’ve seen them on film,” Meacham said. “We knew they were a solid team, and we would have to play well to be in the ballgame with them. It wasn’t a surprise.”
The Manti defense was overwhelmed as the Wildcats amassed 379 total yards on offense, including 260 through the air. On the other side of things, the Templars struggled to move the ball whatsoever after their first drive, and the offense collected 251 total yards, mostly on the ground.
Junior Kayson Douglas led the pass offense in a dismal day. Douglas completed 5 of 13 passes for 73 yards and an interception. Freshman Maison Starkweather came in near the end and was 0 for 3 on pass attempts with an interception.
Junior Larsen Pogroszewski led the ground game with 11 carries for 81 yards. Senior A.J. Cox had the Templars only touchdown as he had seven carries for 41 yards. The Templars, if nothing else, were established in the run game with 179 total rushing yards.
Manti’s first drive of the game faced a 2nd-and-7 from the 35-yard line, and Douglas attempted to deliver a first-down pass on an inside slant to sophomore Reggie Frischknecht. The high pass went off Frischknecht’s hands but fell into the hands of junior Keegan Strickland ahead of him. Strickland’s good fortune turned into a 56-yard catch-and-run down inside the Richfield 10.
On the very next play, Cox took the handoff up the left side and rumbled through a few defenders for the 9-yard touchdown.
Richfield returned the ensuing kickoff into Manti territory to set up a very short field for the Wildcats. Methodically, they crept into the endzone then scored on a pass to the inside slant for 7 yards.
Thanks to a missed afterpoint, Manti was still ahead, 7-6 midway through the second quarter, but a long pass attempt by Douglas was intercepted. A few plays later, Richfield capitalized on a defender slipping on the deep route and completed a 45-yard touchdown to a wide-open receiver to go up, 12-7, after a failed conversion.
Richfield got the ball back for the final minute of the half and burned the defense yet again as a receiver got behind the defense and was wide-open to catch the 25-yard score for a 20-7 into the half.
“There were a couple of times that we had miscommunications in coverage,” Meacham said. “That was the biggest share of the problem there.”
The Wildcats scored again in the third quarter on a 6-yard run and nailed a field goal in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
Manti’s final game will be a road contest with 3A South leader Juab on the road this Wednesday.