The Templars used a 49-point second quarter to earn their second straight trip to the state title game. Manti, which had led just 6-0 at the end of the first quarter, racked up seven more touchdowns during the second period alone to take a 55-0 halftime lead.
“I really don’t know what happened in the second quarter,” said GCHS quarterback Jacob Francis after the game. “I thought it would never end.”
Manti’s eight first-half touchdowns included three TD passes from Templar quarterback Connor Aste to different receivers, three short touchdown runs, and two defensive scores from blocked punt recoveries.
“We were able to get some big plays,” said Manti coach Cole Meacham. “Our special teams really did a great job.”
Grand’s head coach, Dennis Wells, said the Red Devils simply struggled to keep control of the ball during the first half of play.
“We just didn’t show up ready to play,” Wells said. “You have to take the game to the other team instead of waiting for them to bring it to you. Once we got behind by a couple of touchdowns, we had to start taking chances, and we kept losing the ball.”
The Templars recovered a total of four Grand fumbles and intercepted three passes during the contest.
Manti scored only once in the second half, on a 45-yard field goal by Carlo Garcia, as the clock ran virtually non-stop due to the “mercy rule” having gone into effect because the Templars were leading by more than 25 points at halftime.
The Red Devils, who had managed to score 48 points against Millard during the previous week’s quarterfinals victory at Moab, weren’t able to score against Manti until early in the fourth quarter, when receiver Wesley Rodda caught an 8-yard pass from Francis in the end zone. A few minutes later, as time was expiring, Koi Cook added a 3-yard rushing touchdown for Grand, and Francis threw a two-point conversion pass to Kamron Call.
The loss dropped the Red Devils to 7-4 for the year, still a notable improvement over last year’s 2-8 season. An estimated crowd of at least 300 Red Devil fans filled the eastside stands at Southern Utah University’s stadium in Cedar City for Grand’s season-ending game.
“It was a great year,” said Rodda, a senior who finished the game with six catches and 125 yards receiving. “I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my senior year with any other guys… They are all like brothers to me. We came together and made it an amazing season. We had our ups and downs, but overall it was great.”
Manti improved to 10-1 overall on the year, their only loss coming against 3A Juan Diego during the preseason. The Templars will next take on the undefeated San Juan Broncos, who improved to 11-0 after edging past South Summit 15-9 in the other 2A semifinal game played at Cedar City. The 2A championship game between Manti and San Juan is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 at Pleasant Grove High School.