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2A high school football previews: Grand vs. Manti

Published: Friday, Nov. 2 2012 8:55 a.m. MDT

Manti (9-1) vs. Grand (7-3)

2A state tournament semifinal

At Southern Utah University

Saturday, 11 a.m.

Parry’s Power Guide: Manti by 28

All-time series: Grand leads 14-9

Coach vs. coach: Manti’s Cole Meacham and Grand’s Dennis Wells are tied 3-3

Last meeting: Oct. 26, 2007 (2A quarterfinal) — Grand 21, Manti 7

Even though defending 2A state champion Manti had no problem rolling past Beaver in last week’s quarterfinals, there was an underlying stat that’s a concern heading into this Saturday’s semifinals. The Templars averaged just less than three yards per carry.

It obviously wasn’t a big problem considering how well quarterback Connor Aste played, not to mention another outstanding defensive effort on Manti.

Against surprising semifinalist Grand this Saturday at Southern Utah University, that production needs to improve.

“Our biggest thing is we need to be able to do, run the ball. Our run game has got to be there,” said Manti coach Cole Meacham.

Against Grand defense that gave up nearly 350 yards of rushing yards in last week’s quarterfinal upset of Millard, Manti should have success on the ground this week.

When the 2A brackets were finalized, just about everyone outside of Moab expected the first 2A semifinal in Cedar City this Saturday to be a rematch of last year’s title game between Manti and Millard. Instead, Grand matched Millard stride for stride, winning a shootout 48-33.

Grand coach Dennis Wells said the mindset has to be completely different going up against Manti.

“We can’t get in a shooting match like we did with Millard. If we want to beat Manti we’re going to have to hold them down,” Wells said.

That’s easier said than done.

Even though its ground game was held in check last week, Aste picked up the slack through the air completing 9 of 12 passes for 214 yards. Five of his completions went to T.J. Pogroszewski, who finished with 142 yards.

As efficient as Manti’s passing game was last week, it’s still a run-first team that can dominate the line of scrimmage at times. Grand can’t key on just one runner either as 11 different players have scored rushing TDs this season.

Despite being a four-touchdown underdog, Grand believes it can compete with Manti. It will need a big game from quarterback Jacob Francis though.

Manti hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all year, and you can bet the game plan will be to contain the running of Koi Cook, Cameron Taylor and Jacob Francis. The trio has combined to rush for more than 2,000 yards this year.

If they’re held in check, Grand will have no choice but to throw more frequently. Francis has passed for 988 yards and nine TDs this year, but he’s also been a bit turnover-prone with 14 interceptions.

Manti statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 31.3 ppg

Scoring defense: 9.8 ppg

Passing leader: Connor Aste (80-124, 64.5 percent, 1,357 yards, 12 TDs, 7 INTs)

Rushing leaders: Austin Jackson (94 carries, 461 yards, 8 TDs), Taylor Soper (69 carries, 352 yards, 4 TDs), Zane Stevens (49 carries, 245 yards, 4 TDs)

Receiving leaders: T.J. Pogroszewski (19 rec., 397 yards, 4 TDs), Jamen Miller (14 rec., 328 yards, 2 TDs)

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