MANTI—There wasn’t much that went wrong for the Templars last Friday, but what did was crucial enough to end the season.
The Manti football team had five turnovers in a narrow loss to visiting Ogden, 34-28, in the first round of the 3A State Championship playoffs. Several questionable calls also hampered the Templars ability to pull away in the first half. The loss ended Manti’s season with a 3-7 overall record, tied for the fewest wins in a Manti football season since 2016.
Manti’s young, fast-improving offense moved with incredible efficiency on the Tigers, mostly before halftime, as they outgained Ogden in total yardage for the game by a wide margin, 378-238. It all came down to turnovers, which Ogden took a 5-1 advantage in. The Templars threw three interceptions and lost two of their four total fumbles.
“The turnovers on offense were a problem,” said Coach Cole Meacham. “Our defense was spotty. They did great at times; but they gave up some big plays.”
Junior Kayson Douglas led the three total quarterbacks to take snaps for Manti. Douglas completed 12 of 20 passes for 189 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Junior Larsen Pogroszewski had a forgettable passing game, 1 of 5 for 34 yards and an interception, but he led all rushers with 10 carries for 80 yards. Junior Keegan Strickland led the receiving corps with five catches for 97 yards and three touchdowns, while sophomore Reggie Frischknecht had five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
The Templars seemed to be the ones in control for most of the first half. Douglas had two touchdown passes, both to Strickland, in the first quarter. Thanks to Manti’s two long touchdown drives, bookends of a kick return touchdown by the Tigers, Ogden’s offense nearly didn’t even see the first quarter, taking its first and only snap of the quarter with 22 seconds remaining.
The final few plays of the first half were a huge determining factor in the game’s outcome, as multiple controversial calls went against Manti and gave the Tigers new life. Just after a touchdown drive by the Tigers, Cox returned the ensuing kickoff and found a lane up the left side to potentially score on the return. Cox got pushed to the sideline by a defender and appeared to stay inbounds, but the official called him out of bounds at the Ogden 40-yard line. Replay of the run distinctly showed green grass between Cox’s white cleat and the sideline every step of the way, making the ruling that much more frustrating.
Douglas underthrew an out route to Strickland on the next play and was picked off, giving Ogden one last possession in the half with under a minute remaining. A few plays later, Ogden’s quarterback heaved a long shot to a receiver closely guarded by Pogroszewski, who made a play on the intended receiver as the ball smacked the back of his helmet. Though he appeared to be there at the same as the ball was, Pogroszewski was flagged for pass interference, giving Ogden a first down at the Manti 14.
The very next play, junior Scott Lee looked to make a play as he intercepted a pass to the end zone, but yet another baffling judgement call ruled that he was out of bounds when making the catch. With 6 seconds remaining, Ogden got 3 points on the board with a 30-yard field goal, and what could have been a two-possession game at the half for the Templars ended up a slim 21-17 lead.
“The refs try to do a good job,” Meacham said. “We just have to live with the outcome. There’s always frustration when the outcome ought to be different, but that’s just a part of life. You go out and do your best.”
Ogden took control in the third quarter with two touchdown drives to go up, 31-21, forcing multiple turnovers, and never looked back.
In the fourth quarter, after the Tigers had gone up, 34-21, with another made field goal, Meacham sent in freshman quarterback Maison Starkweather to finish the game in the final minutes. Starkweather was impressive, completing 6 of 7 passes for 97 yards, including an impressive 30-yard pass to Strickland in triple-coverage, followed by a laser to Strickland for a 20-yard touchdown.
“We’ve got competition all over the field,” Meacham said. “You work hard in the offseason, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to go play.”
The Templars graduate seven seniors next spring and will be bringing nearly their entire offense back, particularly at the skill positions.
“We’re proud of our seniors,” Meacham said. “They maintained a great attitude and worked hard.”