Templars strike first, but Wildcats
finish stronger, 42-14
By Matt Harris
RICHFIELD—When senior running back Tyler Taukei’aho crossed the goal line on the first play from scrimmage, it seemed like Manti’s football team was prepared to make it a long night for the Richfield Wildcats and their home crowd.
My, how the tables turned.
Richfield answered Manti’s opening touchdown with 36 unanswered points, including 29 in the second quarter, to rout the Templars, 42-14; and the Templars dropped to 1-4 on the season for only the second time in 14 seasons.
“They came out and they played hard,” Coach Cole Meacham said about the Wildcats. “They ran the ball well on us, and we just didn’t respond very well.”
Richfield exploited, to the greatest lengths, an uncharacteristic weakness in Manti’s ability to defend the run. Wildcats senior back Kasey Giddings rushed 29 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Manti had allowed nearly 300 rushing yards to Juan Diego in the prior week.
Richfield’s 42 points were the most scored on Manti since allowing 56 points to Summit Academy in 2018, the year Summit Academy won the 3A title.
With the Templars having dropped three straight games, Meacham took some responsibility for the season’s trajectory. Though the veteran coach did not have many words to say about the loss, he was certain of the two-part remedy that he believes will fix up and refocus Manti in preparation for their next game.
“We need to be more confident and more physical,” Meacham said. “As coaches, we’re gonna tweak our scheme a little bit.”
Manti came out of the gate with all the fury of a team sick of losing as the Templars first play of the game was a handoff to Taukei’aho. As blockers made a hole for him big enough to drive a Jeep through, the running back exploded through the line and burned the Richfield secondary for an 80-yard score.
On the Wildcats’ responding drive, Richfield started to gash the Templar defense early on running through the line, and Richfield quarterback Gavin Brown scored the 7-yard touchdown run on an option play.
On the Wildcats’ next drive after forcing a three-and-out for Manti, Brown and the offense rolled downfield again and scored as Brown found a receiver on a slant in the end zone for the 13-7 lead.
At the four-minute mark before halftime, the Templars were down 20-7 when things got ever so much worse. After stalling on a three-and-out again, Manti’s attempt to punt went over Austin Cox’s head at punter, and Cox booted it through the end zone for a safety.
The Wildcats scored two touchdowns in the final 30 seconds of the first half as Manti fumbled a kickoff return as the half came to a close, finalizing a second quarter where Manti surrendered two turnovers and 29 points and managed only two first downs.
Senior quarterback Jax Parry got the Templars one more score midway through the third quarter with a 15-yard touchdown to senior Tanner Justesen, but the game was already in hand for the Wildcats.
The Templars opened up at No. 14 out of 17 teams in the UHSAA’s initial RPI rankings last Monday, their lowest ranking of the RPI era.
Manti will return home this Friday to face American Leadership Academy.