Templers fall to Crimson Cliffs
20-15 in season opener
By Matt Harris
WASHSINGTON, UT—Manti’s football team faced uncharacteristic disappointment last Friday as they lost their season opener on the road to Crimson Cliffs, 20-15.
The Templars, though stalwart on defense, were plagued by offensive miscues and despite getting a late lead in the final quarter, they couldn’t hold on in an ugly game laden with turnovers on both ends.
Quarterback Jax Parry threw for two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter; the senior now has thrown 20 touchdowns in his Manti career.
Coach Cole Meacham was unavailable to comment on the game.
Manti struggled with penalties in the first quarter, including a string of flagged plays that took their offense out of scoring position on their first possession and forced a punt on fourth-and-long.
Manti’s offense committed three costly turnovers, starting with a fumble in the second quarter by senior receiver Tyson Brenchley, who may have taken it personal, because he took no time at all to redeem himself on the very next play on defense. Brenchley met the Mustangs’ running from the side and stripped the ball as he went down. The fumble was recovered by sophomore safety Larson Pogroszewski, and Manti took possession back, though they were still unable to make it downfield to score.
With just over three minutes to go in the second quarter, Crimson Cliffs got on the board first when a pass down the middle of the field met a receiver for a 15-yard completion. The Mustangs’ receiver evaded a tackle from senior Tanner Justesen and outraced the secondary for a 65-yard touchdown to put the Mustangs up, 7-0.
On the ensuing possession, Parry forced a big throw to sophomore tight end Christian Hansen that was intercepted by the Crimson Cliffs defense. Yet again, the Manti defense got their vengeance by forcing a fumble two plays later, courtesy of senior Austin Cox. Parry nearly threw another interception on the very next play after that, but officials ruled that the ball that hit the ground before the Mustangs’ safety had secured his catch.
Coming out of halftime, the Templars turnover woes kept coming as senior running back Tyler Taukei’aho fumbled on the first play of the third quarter. Despite the defense’s best attempt at a goal-line stand, the Mustangs cashed in on the great field position with another touchdown pass from just two yards out.
After another close call testing the Mustang secondary, Parry finally delivered a strike to Cox, and Cox took it nearly 50 yards downfield. Taukei’aho rumbled on the next play for another nine yards up the left side.
Getting down to a first-and-goal situation on the eight-yard line, a pass interference call kept Manti’s drive alive at the two-yard line, but the miscues came back to plague the Templar offense yet again. Manit committed a false start, allowed a sack, and turned the ball over on downs to lose their opportunity to score at the five-minute mark.
Again, the defense came up big with an interception on the ensuing drive to get the ball back for the Templars.
In the fourth quarter, with Manti down, 14-0, Taukei’aho came up big on defense with a big hit on the quarterback, forcing another fumble which Cox recovered at the Mustangs’ 47-yard line.
With just under six minutes to go, Parry rolled out left and delivered a dime to junior running back Alex Cox, and Cox dragged a few defenders for a 25-yard touchdown to put Manti on the board late, 14-7.
Manti got a big break later in the fourth when a muffed punt by Pogroszewski was called off by a Crimson Cliffs false start. Manti secured the possession and gained some heat on offense with a long completion by Parry to get down to the Mustang 35-yard line.
With Manti facing a fourth-and-12 with less than two minutes to go in the game, Parry delivered a thing of beauty. Parry held in the pocket and threw a strike to Justesen as he streaked to the left endzone corner for a touchdown with a defender draped around him.
Cox gave the Templars a 15-14 lead with 1:48 remaining as the Templar offensive line pushed him into the endzone for a two-point conversion.
What happened next was a killer.
On the Mustangs’ second play of the next possession, the Mustangs’ quarterback went long for a completion, and the receiver again outraced everyone for a 76-yard touchdown to go up, 20-15.
On Manti’s final possession of the game, the Templars got out to their own 46-yard, and Parry launched a bomb with a second remaining, but it fell to the ground at the 10-yard line, sealing Manti’s fate.
The Templars offensive execution notably improved in the fourth quarter, giving hope to the staff for a better game next week against another tough opponent. It is the first loss in a season opener for Manti in 14 seasons.
Manti stays on the road to face Payson next Friday.