2A high school football preview: Beaver visits defending state champion Manti
Beaver (8-2) at Manti (8-1)
2A state tournament quarterfinal
Friday, 5 p.m.
Parry’s Power Guide: Manti by 15
All-time series: Manti leads 3-1
Coach vs. coach: Manti’s Cole Meacham leads Beaver’s Steve Hutchings, 2-0
Last meeting: Oct. 19, 2007 (2A first round) — Manti 38, Beaver 8
Manti and Beaver both can’t help but feel a bit unlucky to be playing each other in the quarterfinals.
Beaver has been playing extremely well since the opening month of the season, but a Week 3 loss to Richfield ultimately created a three-way tie for second place in the South region between Beaver, Grand and Richfield. As luck would have it, Beaver lost the coin flip and entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed despite probably being the second best team in the region behind San Juan.
The result is a very intriguing 2A quarterfinal game this Friday between defending state champion Manti and Beaver.
“We have the defending state champs, and that’s always a huge challenge. We have great respect for them and we look at it as a challenge,” said Beaver coach Steve Hutchings.
As for Manti, coach Cole Meacham expects a much tougher game than he normally would in the quarterfinals coming off a region title.
“I’m sitting here watching film on Beaver right now and I don’t think it’s going to be an easy first round game for us,” said Meacham.
Statistically, Manti and Beaver are quite similar. Both average right around 30 ppg, and they both surrender about 10 ppg. They both like to mix it up with the run and the pass, but their methods are completely different.
While Beaver leans heavily on 1,000-yard rusher Jesse McMullin on the ground, Manti spreads the ball around to multiple guys. As a team Manti has rushed for over 1,500 yards, but leading rusher Austin Jackson has only accounted for 421 of those yards.
“It lets our kids know that as coaches we have confidence in all of you, and if a certain play is there and a certain player is having a good night then that’s where we’re going to go with,” said Meacham.
Zane Stevens is third on the team with 232 rushing yards, but he only has two carries in the past four games as he’s dealt with a sprained ankle. Taylor Soper picked up the slack in his absence, but both will be ready to go against Beaver’s solid run defense.
“They’re very good. They’re big. They’re fast. And they have a lot of weapons. Through the year we try and play solid defense and not key on one person. That preparation may help us out,” said Hutchings.
Despite scoring 45 points in last week’s first-round win over Gunnison, Beaver’s biggest concern against Manti is on offense. Beaver is a team that likes to grind out first downs, but Manti’s front seven is big and physical and tough to run against.
Three weeks ago against a similarly tough San Juan defense, Beaver couldn’t get anything going offensively and lost 20-0. It only trailed 6-0 after three quarters, proof enough the Beavers can compete with the elite 2A teams.
“San Juan is a great team and I thought we played them as good as anyone has this year,” said Hutchings.
In a game that has the potential to be evenly matched, the right mentality could be huge. Beaver hasn’t advanced to the semifinals since 1999 and doesn’t have much winning tradition to draw upon. Manti, meanwhile, is coming off a dominant state championship last season and knows what it takes.