MANTI — Before the game Millard coach Marshall Sheriff said the key to a victory would be winning the turnover battle. The only turnover in the game was a fumble on Millard's first possession that led to a Manti touchdown and, eventually a 20-14 win over the Eagles.
Both Sheriff and Manti coach Cole Meacham felt stopping the big play was another important factor.
"You can't go against backs like that (Pancho Alcala and Jesse Rhodes) and shut them down," said Meacham.
Both Manti and Millard had solid defensive performances with each team only giving up two plays for more than 25 yards.
"We did pretty good against them on the ground," said Meacham. "But Alcala hurt us in the air."
In a game that featured over 600 yards in total offense, it was a big defensive stand that helped the Templars score the winning touchdown.
With the score deadlocked at 14 each, the Eagles had good field position at the Manti 47. The Eagles picked up 5 yards on an Alcala run and then two more on a dive by Rhodes. Twice the Manti defense held Millard to no gain and took over on downs with just over two minutes to play.
"They (Millard) were moving the ball well, and I told my kids we can't leave them much clock," said Meacham.
Manti picked up a trio first downs on an 11-yard run by Stevens and a pair of 10-yard scrambles by quarterback Brady Aste. Aste then found Trey Gunderson open in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with only 22 seconds left to play.
"The stop in the fourth quarter was huge for our kids," said Meacham. "They came up with three stops in a row against a heck of a team."
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Millard had a hard time running against the Templar defensive line, gaining a sub par 188 yards on the ground. Rhodes had 88 while Alcala ran for 83. Alcala had both touchdowns for the Eagles, one a 38 yard carry, the other a 28 yard pass reception. Tanner Slavens completed seven of 11 passes for 121 yards. Alcala caught four for 63 yards.
Led by Aste with 116 yards, Manti had 317 rushing yards. Stevens carried for 89 yards, Christian Boorman had 33, Kenny Peterson ran for 30 and Kyle Larsen had 26. Larsen and Stevens each had a running touchdown in the game. Aste completed three of eight passes for 36 yards.
The win earned Manti the 2A North region championship while Millard claims the number two spot. Both teams will have a by this week before hosting quarterfinal games on Oct. 28 or 29.