High school football: Manti Templars 2012 preview

Published: Tuesday, July 31 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

Scroll to bottom of story to see Manti Felt's Facts

Note: Manti finished with an 11-1 overall record and was first in the 2A North region with a 7-0 record in 2011. It beat Millard, 37-9, in the 2A championship.

MANTI — Heading into the 2011 season, 2A coaches around the state spoke enviously about Manti’s size in the trenches. All hinted it might be too much to overcome.

They were right.

Manti lost just one game all year — to 3A’s Juan Diego — en route to claiming the 2A state championship. Size on the lines was the difference as it overpowered everyone in 2A.

As the Templars go for a repeat this season, most of that size has graduated. In fact, only one lineman on either side of the ball returns.

Coach Cole Meacham isn’t about to lower expectations though.

“We’re going to be young, and a couple of the seniors that we could have are going to be inexperienced without any good quality varsity snaps. It will be interesting to see what they do in the first couple preseason games,” said Meacham.

Koleton Moon is the lone returning starter on the offensive and defensive line. Taylor Coburn would’ve been a returning starter as well, but he transferred to Wasatch after his father Steve Coburn took the head coaching job up there.

Just like last year, the newcomers will get tested early as Manti opens the preseason with games against 3A top dogs Delta and Juan Diego.

As the lines adjust to the speed and physicality of varsity football, Manti will lean heavily on a talented group of returning skill-position players.

“We could have some skill kids in a rotation situation. Some years they could be playing every down, but this year they may have to rotate,” said Meacham.

He’s curious to see if they learn to accept their roles to build team unity.

Running back Austin Jackson said team unity is what made last year’s team special. Manti had 15 seniors, and they were in the weight room every morning during the summer building a bond with the underclassmen. As a senior this year, Jackson said it’s up to him to help facilitate a similar relationship with the underclassmen to build that team unity up again.

Manti's underclassmen will fill important roles on the offensive and defensive line, not to mention quarterback.

After watching his brother Brady lead Manti to the state title last year, junior Connor Aste takes over at quarterback this season.

“He throws the ball really, really well. As a passer he’s probably as good if not better than his brother. Brady ran the offense to perfection, was a huge running threat. As a passer Conner could be better,” said Meacham.

Zane Stevens returns at running back after leading Manti last year with 115 carries for 745 yards and 10 TDs.

Jackson, Jamen Miller and Colin Haymond will all rotate at the speed-back position.

Meacham is counting heavily on the experience of the four running backs.

“It’s huge. There’s really nothing that we haven’t seen. They’ve seen all the different defenses, and the leadership they can give to us, even to the younger linemen, is huge,” said Meacham.

At the end of the day, confidence is obviously high for the defending state champs heading into the season. Guarding against overconfidence is something Meacham continually reminds his players about.

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