CEDAR CITY — The defending 2A champion Manti Templars earned a second straight trip to the state title game as they buried the Grand Red Devils 58-15 in a semifinal matchup Saturday.
The Templars led just 6-0 at the end of the first quarter but then scored an incredible 49 points in the second period to take a 55-0 halftime lead.
Manti scored seven TDs in the second quarter, utilizing a wide variety of players and plays. Three of the scores were TD passes from quarterback Connor Aste to different receivers (Jamen Miller, Colin Haymond, and T.J. Pogroszewski). Two of the scores were on five-yard runs (by Taylor Soper and Haymond). Manti's other two TDs came from blocked punts, with Templar defensive players Jared Scheiss and Dallin Carter each finding their way into the end zone.
"We were able to get some big plays,"?said Manti coach Cole Meacham after the game. "Our special teams really did a great job, and we knew we just had to keep lots of pressure on Grand."?
Nine Templars scored in the contest, including kicker Carlo Garcia, who was 5-for-7 on extra points and who added a 45-yard field goal in the third period, Manti's only points of the second half.
Austin Jackson first put the Templars on the scoreboard with a 7-yard run midway through the first quarter. Also, Zane Stevens made a two-point conversion run during the second period.
The Red Devils, who had racked up 48 points against Millard during last week's quarterfinals, weren't able to score against Manti until the early fourth quarter, when Grand receiver Wesley Rodda caught an 8-yard pass from Jacob Francis in the end zone. A few minutes later, as time was expiring, Koi Cook added a 3-yard rushing TD, and Francis threw a two-point conversion pass to Kamron Call to round out the scoring.
The loss dropped the Red Devils to 7-4 for the year, still a notable improvement over last year's 2-8 season.
Meantime, Manti improved to 10-1 overall on the year, their only loss coming against 3A Juan Diego during the preseason.
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The Templars will next take on the undefeated San Juan Broncos, who improved to 11-0 after edging South Summit 15-9 in the other 2A semifinal.
Meacham said he's already looking forward to next week's title matchup, which will feature not only the two top 2A defenses in terms of points allowed, but also two of the classification's most potent offenses.
"Hopefully, we can play as well next week as we did today," Meacham said.
The 2A championship game between Manti and San Juan is scheduled to kickoff at 11 a.m. Saturday at Pleasant Grove High School.