MANTI—For a program built for success and consistency, the Templars are struggling in a big way.
The Manti High football team fell to 1-3 on the season for the first time since 2016 and only the second time in over 15 years, as the Templars came up just short in a comeback effort against rival Juan Diego, 28-27, in a game where the difference ultimately came down to PAT’s being missed.
The Templars had a kick blocked early in the first quarter, which, in turn, pressured Manti to go for two-point conversions on later opportunities, and they failed both times. The kicking game came back in the final score of the game to potentially tie it up after kicker Seth Cornelson nailed a 30-yard field goal earlier in the fourth quarter, but the senior missed it wide left.
Manti Coach Cole Meacham was quick to say that he’s “not worried about it” when asked about the Templars going 0-4 on extra points. “Our kicker’s doing a great job,” Meacham said. “He kicked a 30-yard field goal to put us in that position to put it back to a one-score game.”
Senior quarterback Jax Parry had a stellar showing despite the loss, completing 24 of 38 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The Templars struggled mightily against the rush defense of the Soaring Eagle as senior running back Tyler Taukei’aho led the run game with merely six carries for 27 yards.
Parry’s main target was senior Tanner Justesen, who caught 10 passes for 101 yards and one touchdown. Senior Austin Cox backed him up with four catches for 69 yards and had a sack on defense.
The game had some initial fireworks as the Soaring Eagle were the first on the board with a four-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the first quarter. Taukei’aho answered back in a big way by taking the ensuing kickoff 85 yard for a touchdown right up the middle of the field.
After a scoreless second quarter, Juan Diego began to take control in the third quarter with a pair of long touchdown runs, one from 30 yards and another from 80 yards.
Despite a two-touchdown deficit going into the final quarter, Manti regained composure and surged back, beginning with a goal-line push into pay dirt by Taukei’aho for a one-yard score.
Juan Diego nearly scored again on the subsequent drive, but an illegal hold took the Soaring Eagle out of the end zone, and a slew of offensive penalties forced them way out of scoring range, allowing Manti to take over.
Meacham went all in on the passing game, and it paid off in the last few minutes, getting the ball downfield enough to allow the field goal from Cornelson and a seven-point game.
Stopping the Juan Diego offense’s last drive, Manti had 1:14 left to get another touchdown and no timeouts. Parry first hit Cox for a big gain of 24 yards, then found Justesen for seven yards. Taukei’aho took the next play enough for a first down before Parry spiked it to stop the clock.
Parry hit Cox again for another first down to the Juan Diego 13-yard line, followed by a penalty that brought the line back to the 18. With the clock stopped, Parry found sophomore Keegan Strickland up the seam for a touchdown between the hash marks with six seconds remaining.
Parry went for a two-point conversion initially that was incomplete, but a pass interference call gave the Templars another shot. Buzzing from the moment, Manti didn’t get set properly to run the next play and drew a false start to go back to the 5-yard line. The Templars elected to take another five-yard penalty and send out the kicking unit for a chance at overtime, a kick that would go without reward.
Parry’s 38 passing attempts were the most pass attempts by a Manti quarterback in over five seasons.
“I was really really proud of the boys,” Coach Meacham said. “I felt like last week, kind of mentally and emotionally, we weren’t there. They just refocused and did a great job this week.”
The Templars will face yet another tough test next week as they go on the road to 3-1 Richfield this Friday.